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Claims Of Hiring Discrimination At Dallas VA Medical Center

DALLAS (CBS 11 NEWS) - A team from the Department of Veterans Affairs will look into claims of racism, and discrimination at the North Texas VA Medical Center.

The claims were made in a letter from the union that represents employees at the VA.

The five-page letter charges that the local VA facility is involved in a "cycle of discrimination, abuse of authority, and blatant racism." The human resources chief at the hospital in Dallas said the allegations are not true.

The complaint stems from the application process for the associate chief job, in the pharmacy clinical and education program. President Donald Burrell, and vice president Dr. Gerald Goodwin from AFGE Local 2437, wrote that an African American woman was the highest-ranking candidate for the job. She was never hired though. The union said candidate scores were changed twice, and they believed leadership had another candidate in mind for the position.

It's similar to a complaint from 2010, where the union said another African American woman was passed over for the director's position in Dallas.

"We have a philosophy where justice is not the order of the day," Goodwin said. "The order of the day is let's see what we can cover up. We want to ignore the facts. We don't want to deal with the truth."

Doctor Goodwin, who is married to the job candidate described in the complaint, Jerica Goodwin, said he knows of no more than three minorities in top leadership position within the North Texas VA.

Administrators strongly denied the allegations of discrimination. The hospital could not provide detailed numbers for minorities in top paying positions. However, it said in 2013 minorities filled 48-percent of the top three pay levels.

"The allegations of an overarching discriminatory practice are not true, but also we hope to engage our labor partners to see beyond maybe what their emotional history is," said human resources chief Barbara Rogers.

Rogers explained that VA administrators from outside North Texas are often involved in the hiring of leadership positions. She said regardless of a number on paper, the VA owed it to veterans to get the best person for a job.

CBS 11 News has spoken to several employees who filed complaints with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Complaints from employees have come up in several cases, Rogers said, because the union has encouraged it, regardless of the cost to taxpayers to defend the cases.

Neither the medical center nor union could give an exact number of complaints filed.

Both sides agreed though the continued disagreements had the potential to affect patient care.

"And it's really, really difficult to prevent us from being distracted away from patient care," Rogers said. "I can't even express how much of a distraction this is."

Goodwin said the two issues, are inseparable. "It distracts the administration from what we should be here for. Which is, to care of those who are going to battle, the widow and the orphan."

(©2014 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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