MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Many of the problems exposed at the Memphis VA Medical Center have come from the tips of one man. But with a letter made official Friday, that man has been told his services are no longer needed at the Memphis VA.
Sean Higgins is vowing to fight for his Memphis VA job.
It’s a job he was fired from Friday for disruptive behavior. He says it was for telling an employee to address him not by his first name, but by Mr. Higgins.
He says he was also told he was fired for using profanity in a confidential EEOC meeting.
Higgins believes those reason were used as an excuse to get rid of him.
“This is a whistle blower retaliation, that’s all it can be. This agency has been tired of me blowing the whistle on them,” says Higgins.
Higgins has been reporting problems since he started at the VA in 2007.
WREG has reported on the problems that have in some cases gotten national attention, including the VA providing unsafe working conditions.
“I was exposed to 23 orphan and unknown chemicals, to which the agency refused to annotate my health care rights to show what I was actually exposed to,” Higgins told WREG in 2014.
Higgins has been fired twice before, but each time got his job back.
His newest termination letter came shortly before President Trump signed the VA Accountability and Whistle blower Protection Act.
Higgins says as a whistle blower, he’s protected and Memphis VA officials are ignoring the law.
“Under the new whistle blower act, anyone who retaliates or reprises against a whistle blower, they can be fired,” says Higgins.
Now Higgins is concerned about just how much protection whistle blowers will actually have under the law.
“Our concern now is they are going to use this legislation to go after whistle blowers,” he says.
We asked the VA for comment about Higgins. They say privacy laws prohibit them from speaking on personal issues.
They did send a statement saying in his first 60-90 days, the new Director of the Memphis VA will be conducting a complete evaluation of the facility and getting input from stakeholders, elected officials and labor partners.
Sean Higgins says he won’t remain silent. He is fighting his firing and plans to continue fighting for veterans.
“No. It’s not over. Not over for a long time,” he says.
Higgins is appealing his firing to the Merit System Protection Board. He expects the case to be heard within 120 days.