Dr. Charles Heckman – No Good Deed Goes Unpunished, Part 3

Part 3

Part 1 showed that Dr. Charles Heckman had willingly served multiple combat tours as an Air Force pilot during the Vietnam War. After 58 months of service, he had earned a legal and moral right to benefits which were supposed to permit him to make a living as a civilian in America. Part 2 shows that the federal government of the United States, maliciously (i.e., trying to keep the money allocated to veterans) created as many problems as possible in its attempt to force Dr. Heckman to quit his graduate studies, make it impossible for him to find any job of any kind during the next 47 years of his life, ruin his health by preventing him from obtaining any dental treatment for a service-connected condition, and try to block his wife and mother of their three children from ever becoming an American citizen. This is not just a bad luck story of a veteran who fought in an unpopular war. It rather exemplifies the kind of treatment several million veterans received from the government they defended during and after the Cold War.

By leaving the United States and seeking education and employment in foreign countries, Dr. Heckman avoided the discrimination that led to several hundred thousand veterans living homeless and destitute for significant periods of their lives and dying long before reaching the average age of an American. After returning in 1998, relying on the false promise of a job from the USDA Forest Service, Dr. Heckman discovered that the problems created for veterans by government officials, judges, and civil servants, increased to the point where, on average, 22 veterans commit suicide every day to escape the kind of misery Vietnam War veterans suffer at the hands of our government.

Dr. Heckman suffered in silence until the mid-1980s from the acts of discrimination by the United States government and its contractors, and then, when it became clear that the federal civil service was engaging in fraud to keep veterans from competing for employment, he began filing complaints and lawsuits against the illegal and reprehensible actions taken against veterans by the United States Federal Government and its contractors.

The first of these lawsuits was filed in 1986. It outlined why and how the American institutions created to assist veterans to readjust to civilian life have failed so miserably in reaching minimum statutory requirements, creating what can only be called a holocaust that has been rapidly decimating the veterans of several wars.

In 1997, two employees of the United States Forest Service offered Dr. Heckman a bribe of $20,000 if he would withdraw from an employment selection in Alaska. Dr. Heckman complained as whistleblower, and the U.S. Office of Special Counsel agreed with Dr. Heckman and forced the Forest Service to provide him with an equivalent job, recommending one at the Olympia Forest Sciences Laboratory in Washington.

Behind the scenes, all sorts of schemes were being hatched by these government agencies to circumvent the law. At the time, specialists seeking reform of the Whistleblower Protection Act later told Dr. Heckman that the settlement agreement reached in his case was deficient because it lacked enforcement provisions. Because of this loophole, the Forest Service, using the strategy devised by Deanna Stouder, a specialist at preparing phony justifications for firing scientists who blew the whistle, fired Dr. Heckman. He then appealed to the U.S. Merit System Protection Board.

Appeals and litigation

Prior to 1986, Dr. Heckman had filed complaints against several federal agencies for overt violation of the Constitutional rights every American assumes that he enjoys and statutory rights he earned through his service in the armed forces. These complaints had to be filed to exhaust administrative remedies, a requirement for initiating litigation against agencies of the Executive Branch of the Federal government. At the same time, he filed an employment discrimination complaint against the State University of New York, College of Brockport, and the Research Foundation of the university. He then filed a lawsuit authorized by the Federal Tort Claim Act, Administrative Procedures Act, and other laws against the Secretary of Labor for failure to provide veterans with the protection against discrimination in employment mandated by the Vietnam Veterans Readjustment Assistance Act of 1974, and another against the Department of Labor, Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs, for failure to conduct mandatory investigations of complaints filed by veterans. Another lawsuit was filed against a civil rights representative of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for failure to investigate the violations committed in her agency to keep from hiring veterans and applicants over 40 years old. He also prepared a lawsuit for injunctive relief against the U.S. Department of Justice in order to obtain American citizenship for his wife and mother of their three children.

Although Dr. Heckman was able to obtain a written admission that the State University of New York had not complied with veterans’ laws in its selection and obtain a court order to compel the Immigration and Naturalization to prepare the documents for his wife’s naturalization, 18 years after they were married, the main issue of employment discrimination against veterans was not settled.  Congress would first have to pass a law in 1994 before the courts would consider complaints from veterans.

Meanwhile, Dr. Heckman continued to pursue his career as a scientist in Brazil and Germany.  When one of his contracts expired, he began submitting applications for announced vacancies in his field with potential employers, including agencies of the federal civil service.  Dr. Heckman was surprised when the USDA Forest Service invited him to an interview for employment in Alaska.  However, after he arrived, he learned that he was not being interviewed for the vacancy but rather to be offered $20,000 for withdrawing from the selection so that a less qualified non-veteran with alleged personal connections with the National Science Foundation could be hired.  When Dr. Heckman reported this offer, he placed himself in a second objectionable category: whistleblower.

When Senator Alfonse D’Amato took an interest in his case, the U.S. Office of Special Counsel forced the Forest Service to hire Dr. Heckman at the Olympic Forest Sciences Laboratory at Olympia, WA, a facility of the Pacific Northwest Research Center of the USDA Forest Service.  The Forest Service then hired Deanna Stouder because of her expertise in firing scientists, while she was employed by the U.S. Department of the Interior.  Dr. Heckman was fired one day before the end of the “probationary year” for fraudulent reasons.

This eventually led to an Appeal before the Merit System Protection Board, settled by overt fraud committed by Administrative Judge Sidney Farcy in his decision. The evidence of this will be posted separately.

Such an appeal is supposed to be decided within 120 days.  Dr. Heckman’s appeal took about three years and another year for the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit to affirm the decision.  The Board did not want to look for a reason to justify the faulty initial decision, so the two administrative judges sitting on the Board at the time simply refused to review it.  The judges on the Court of Appeals wrote an opinion in which they stated that they had not reviewed the facts.  They simply affirmed that the Board did not have to review decisions if it did not want to.

While the appeal was in progress, Dr. Heckman applied for 12 civil service vacancies as a civil servant for the State of Washington. He scored 100% on all examinations given by the state Personnel Office, and scored highest among those who took a second examination for each vacancy. Washington granted no veterans’ preference points at the time.  After filing complaints, Dr. Heckman encountered fraud and obstruction of justice in the agency responses an amazing number of times, so he filed a lawsuit in the Superior Court of Thurston County, which was assigned to Judge Strophy.

In 2003, Dr. Heckman began filing applications in response to announced vacancies with the U.S. Geological Survey, an agency of the U.S. Department of the Interior. He continued through 2007, until he had applied for a total of 99 different selections. On most examinations, he received the highest examination score, in most cases without receiving any preference points for his military service. This led to appeals before the Merit System Protection Board handled by the administrative judges in a way to assure that illegal practices introduced to circumvent veterans’ preference were not interfered with. The matter was then transferred to the United States District Court for the Western District of Washington, in the manner prescribed by the Veterans’ Employment Opportunity Act of 1998. The matter has now been placed before the United States Supreme Court.


The Role of Congress

Congress is aware of the conclusions presented here and often cites injustices to veterans in its reports and deliberations. However, there is an extremely strong and active lobby bitterly opposed to the employment of American veterans in any position conferring responsibility or providing leadership. The motivation for this opposition differs according to the political views of those who are discriminating against veterans, the many members of Congress fear this coalition and therefore build “landmines” into legislation to prevent the laws from effectively assisting veterans who face employment discrimination from finding effective remedies. The biggest landmine yet placed by Congress is called the Merit System Protection Board, which was created to keep veterans from taking their complaints into real courts to have them heard by juries. This Board is also assigned to hear all complaints from whistleblowers employed by the federal civil service. Litigants in these two categories, veterans and whistleblowers, are deprived of their civil right, as defined by Amendment VII of the United States Constitution.  All litigants discriminated against by the federal civil service have been able to place their evidence before juries of peers in a real court and receive impartial decisions, except war veterans and whistleblowers. To date, the Merit System Protection Board has never seen to it that any veteran who has been denied employment because of discrimination or any whistleblower suffering reprisal has ever received full compensation for his or her losses. This is in spite of the fact that in all cases, the legal burden of proof is on the agency. No matter how much proof a veteran or a whistleblower presents to the Board, he can always count on losing his appeal or failing to receive any meaningful relief.  In one case, the board ordered the agency to provide relief for a veteran.  The agency simply disregarded the order, and the Board refused to issue an order compelling the agency to comply.  Congress is at fault for creating a system that has been denying veterans basic civil rights.

Chronology of government’s war on veteran

After World War II, President Harry Truman saw to it that veterans were quickly placed in jobs or in colleges to improve their employment prospects. Veterans took leading roles in government and industry, and the country experienced a period of prosperity which people born after 1975 cannot even envision.

During the Vietnam War, President Lyndon Johnson let Congress know that he was against a law improving the benefits for veterans returning from the war, such as increasing the veterans’ assistance allowance to cover the increases in tuition and fees at American colleges. This was odd considering that the most important project to him was proclaimed to be the “war on poverty.” Did he envision that veterans would become the poorest group in American society, as shown now by a vast number of statistics?

To hold down inflation, the Ford-Rockefeller Administration introduced a program labelled WIN, which would encourage businesses to hire fewer new employees and offer lower salaries and benefits, just at a time when many veterans of the Vietnam War would be discharged from the armed forces or earn college degrees after their service.

The first overt attack on veterans through elimination of their benefits came in 1977, almost immediately after the inauguration of President James Earl Carter. The Comptroller General of the United States wrote a letter to Congress demanding that laws giving preference to veterans in public employment be repealed so that preference could be given to non-veterans. Reports and opinions from the Civil Service Commission and other agencies were attached to show how such a program should be administered.  This plan can be reviewed here.  See compgeneral  .

To pass such a law would have been a shameful violation of the contract made between servicemen and the United States. Americans were recruited on the promise that their prospects for finding civil service employment after honorable service would be substantially improved, if not guaranteed. After a serviceman provided honorable service in the war, would Congress simply repeal the law and admit that this promise of preference was simply a joke? Of course, Congress refused to pass the law.

After failing to change the law, the Carter Administration would turn to the courts for assistance in violating the law. At the time, protection against discrimination was provided specifically by the Vietnam Veterans’ Readjustment Assistance Act of 1974, which demanded preferential hiring for veterans by both the federal civil service and federal contractors. Almost immediately after the law was passed, veterans began filing lawsuits because of the discrimination they were facing. Judges reacted by ruling that veterans had no standing to file such lawsuits in their own behalf. They insisted that the law gave only the U.S. Secretary of Labor standing to file a lawsuit in behalf of a veteran. For any other matter, an American could file a lawsuit against the government pursuant to the Federal Tort Claim Act, Tucker Act, or Administrative Procedures Act of 1976, not to mention Constitutional provisions. Why the judges barred only veterans from having access to the courts pursuant to these laws can only be surmised from the politics of the times.

During the late 1970s, the United States Department of Labor proclaimed that only jobs paying less than $18,000 per years should be considered “suitable for veterans.” In 1975, this maximum salary was raised to $25,000 per year.  According to advisements from the Department of Labor, federal contractors should not place notices of jobs paying more in places where veterans were likely to see them. That means that any veteran earning a college degree would automatically be considered overqualified for any job the Department of Labor considered suitable for him.  During the early 1990s, the General Accounting Office (GAO) found that 79% of federal hiring certificates on which a Vietnam War veteran was listed with the highest score were returned to the Office of Personnel Management without anyone being hired.  A short GAO report in 2003 showed that no improvement had been attempted.  See GAO2003 .

While Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush did not overtly disparage the services of veterans, as other politicians often did, they did absolutely nothing to provide veterans with an effective means of redress whenever they faced employment discrimination. It became generally known that no Secretary of Labor would ever take legal action in behalf of a veteran. Finally, in 1994, Congress passed the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act, giving veterans a right to file lawsuits against certain employers. However, if the delinquent employer was an agency of the United States government, the only option it gave to veterans was to file an administrative appeal with the U.S. Merit System Protection Board. This Board is thoroughly corrupt and has never given veterans any chance to obtain redress. One reason for this is that the administrative judges serve for only six years. They then seek employment with other agencies of the Executive Branch or related employment, such as with civil service employees’ unions. An administrative judge known to have found any federal employee guilty of having discriminated against a veteran by especially foul means would stand little chance when appearing at an interview for a top legal post with any federal agency.

In 1998, Congress passed the Veterans’ Employment Opportunities Act, giving veterans their first chance ever to bring their complaints against the federal civil service before a jury in a federal court. Unfortunately, Congess has made it particularly difficult to bring the case before a real court. The matter must first have been before the Merit System Protection Board for at least 121 days without a decision on the merits having been reached. Federal judges have been especially cooperatives with corrupt agencies by not providing effective guidelines for removing the cases from the corrupt Board and bringing them before juries. Dr. Heckman has petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to provide suitable guidelines for this. The matter is pending.

Lawsuits and appeals

1) Heckman v. Executive Branch, United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York, 86-cv-132, Decided January 29, 1987; Appealed, United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, 87-6039, Decided June 26, 1987.  See WACase 1



1 Comment

  1. The three biggest lies in the world. ” Of course I’ll still respect you in the morning”” , “The check’s in the mail”, AND, “I’m from the government and I’m here to help you”.

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