Whether you are a Department of Veterans Affairs Title 38 employee, or part of the Medical staff at another agency like IHS, you have a high level of responsibility with your patients and are given unique protections and appeals processes as a federal employee.
If your agency has suspended or revoked your medical privileges, accused you of providing substandard patient care, or are otherwise threatening you with adverse actions such as removal from federal service, there are legal options that can help.
Depending on your agency, you may be able to appeal to the Disciplinary Appeals Board (DAB), file a grievance, or request a fair hearing. To learn what legal options may be available in your situation, contact a lawyer experienced with Title 38 and healthcare employees today.
Do I Need a Lawyer as a Title 38 Employee?
As a medical staff employee, there is no requirement that you retain an attorney to file a complaint or appeal. However, an experienced federal employment attorney can assist you in understanding your rights and providing guidance on several courses of action.
It is important to fully understand the complex appeals processes, as making a mistake or missing a deadline could cost you your appeal. In many cases, losing can mean being reported to the National Practitioner Data Bank (NPDB) and/or your state licensing boards. When choosing an attorney, look for someone who has experience handling Title 38 cases.
These claims can be highly complex and differ greatly from those processes for Title 5 employees. For this reason, you need a title 38 lawyer who understands how the appeals processes work and who can handle your case if it requires filing a lawsuit.
How the Disciplinary Process Works
Each federal agency has its own processes for medical employees. For VHA Title 38 employees, you can appeal major adverse actions to the Disciplinary Appeals Board (DAB).
A major adverse action includes any of the following:
- Reduction in grade,
- Reduction in basic pay, and
DAB appeals move rather quickly. An appeal to the DAB must be received within seven business days after the written decision on the adverse action. The DAB must issue a decision within 45 days of the hearing, and not more than 120 days after the filing of the appeal. It is important to note, however, that the Secretary can under certain circumstances, reverse or vacate the DAB’s decision. Other adverse actions can be appealed through the VA’s grievance procedures.
At other agencies, such as the Indian Health Service (IHS), appeal rights differ greatly. Appeal rights for members of the IHS medical staff follow local bylaws. Generally, there is a Professional Review Action (PRA), which must be requested by a Director or Department Chief, and then a notification is sent to the affected staff member.
There is an ad hoc committee formed to informally review the employee’s patient care and, failing that process, there may be a Focused Professional Practice Evaluation (FPPE), where another member of the medical staff evaluates the employee’s ability to properly care for her patients. Failing that, the employee may be removed, allowing her to request a Fair Hearing before a hearing committee.
Such a right is critical, as in many cases the agency does not properly perform the due process steps leading up to this point and this may be the affected employee’s first chance to defend herself.
Reporting to NPDB and State Licensing Boards
Regardless of your employing agency, if your professional conduct or competence is being wrongfully questioned, it is imperative that you appeal through the proper channels. Agencies such as the Department of Veterans Affairs must report each licensed healthcare professional whose behavior or clinical practice so substantially fails to meet the generally accepted standards of clinical practice as to raise reasonable concern for the safety of patients.
These reports are sent to the state licensing boards in each state in which the employee is licensed, as well as the NPDB, and this reporting can lead to the loss of one’s medical license.
Consult a Title 38/Healthcare Lawyer Today
If you believe your professional conduct or competence is being questioned, you should speak with our attorneys who are skilled in the nuances of Title 38 and healthcare employee issues. Don’t risk your license by attempting to handle the appeals process on your own.
To learn more about how a VHA Title 38 lawyer can assist you, contact the Federal Employment Law Firm of Aaron D. Wersing, PLLC or give us a call at (833) 833-3529 today. We have years of experience helping federal medical employees. We understand how much is at stake when you are filing an appeal. Let us protect your rights and help you fight for the outcome you deserve.