VA's Center for Women Veterans employees fired over political tweets

Jonathan Kaupanger
July 18, 2018 - 3:44 pm

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Two employees at Veterans Affair’s Center for Women Veterans (CWV) lost their jobs for allegedly violating the Hatch Act via Twitter last week.

One was terminated—the other, the last Obama political appointee left at VA—resigned before she could be fired.

The terminated employee, Danielle Corazza, was the National Outreach Coordinator for CWV and part of her duties included posting to the Center’s Twitter page. 

According to Corazza, she would post anything and everything that effected the women veteran community. She had a Google alert set for news stories about women veterans and would also receive clips from the VA’s press office to post. “Our community is small and they’re hungry for information,” said Corazza, who’s a veteran herself. 

Corazza says she was never counseled about her alleged violation of the Hatch Act and only learned about it when she was fired. The Hatch Act which has been around since 1939, was created to stop federal employees from engaging in political activities while on official duty. Current penalties for violating the act include:  removal, reduction in grade, ineligibility from Federal employment for a period not to exceed 5 years, suspension reprimand, or an assessment of a civil penalty not to exceed $1,000.​

At the time of her termination, Corazza received what was supposed to be a three page letter but according to her the second page was missing.  The Government uses a standard template for termination letters and this second page would have explained how she could file for unemployment insurance and who to contact in order to get the evidence file used in her termination. 

Corazza wants her job back and has hired a lawyer. 

“No one has returned my calls to try and get the rest of the documents the agency has about this matter,” says Corazza's lawyer, Kevin Owen. “They aren’t returning her calls. They are stonewalling. I think they are doing it because they don’t want to provide her rights and they don’t want what’s been going on known.”

Connecting Vets reached out to VA for comment, and was sent screenshots of the five tweets they say are violations of the Hatch Act. 

Photo by VA

“The Center for Women Veterans was recently involved in repeated, clear and unequivocal violations of the Hatch Act,” said VA Press Secretary Curt Cashour. “Using VA resources or time to put partisan politics ahead of the important needs of Veterans runs counter to VA’s values and the law, and as a result VA is implementing staffing changes at the center.” 

"The office that Danielle worked for is statutorily mandated by Congress to help assist and promote and advocate for women veterans,” explains Owen.  

Corazza admits she didn't post many stories about Republican women running for office, because she says there are not as many. 

“I haven’t seen any Republican women veterans make the top ten,” says Corazza. “If I had, I absolutely would have posted it. For me, it’s not about being a Republican or Democrat. It’s about being a strong powerful woman in our community.”

Information from the Center for American Women and Politics seems to back Corazza on this. Women running as Democrats far outnumber those who are Republican this year. To date, adding up national and state political races, 3,107 of the women who have filed to run for office are Democratic, 1,250 are Republican.

This is not the first time someone in federal service has violated the Hatch Act this year. In March, the Office of Special Council (OSC) sent a letter to the President regarding two violations by Counselor to the President Kellyanne Conway.   In the letter, Special Counsel Henry J. Kerner said, "Ms. Conway was aware of the Hatch Act's prohibitions when she chose during both interviews to repeatedly identify reasons why voters should support one candidate over another in the Alabama special election. Thus, I refer her violations for your consideration of appropriate disciplinary action."  It's still unknown if any disciplinary action occurred.  

A Hatch Act complaint was also filed against the president’s son-in-law Jared Kushner in February. Both White House Social Media Director Dan Scavino and U.S. ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley, have also received either a warning or reprimand from the OSC for political statements on their official social media accounts.   

 

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