Mr. James Hundt is an Associate Director in the Veterans Engineering Resource Center (VERC). He is a West Point graduate, disabled veteran, and 24-year military and federal government employee with seven years of experience in three presidential administrations within the Executive Office of the President (EOP).
VERC is a part of the Veterans Health Administration (VHA), which in turn is one of the large subdivisions of the VA. VERC integrates healthcare systems engineering within the VA healthcare model to promote systems improvement and support the implementation of innovative models of care delivery. VERC uses its engineering expertise to assist clinicians in improving their processes or streamlining their operations. By mid-2016, VERC had a staff of approximately 350 employees. Mr. Hundt led the Program Management Office (PMO) of around 60 individuals. The PMO was larger than three of the four regional VERC offices combined and generated more than half the VERC’s cost-reimbursement funding. The PMO successfully organized and ran the largest deployment in VA history.
VERC was a well-respected entity within the VHA. A Congressionally-ordered report, the Commission on Care Final Report of June 30, 2016, praised VERC for implementing best practices regarding various aspects of the VHA’s mission, and suggested that the goal of diffusing best practices throughout the VHA “can best be achieved by collapsing all related efforts into VERC.”
The VA’s Office of Strategic Integration (OSI) was a much smaller operation (around 15 employees) within the VHA with a poor institutional reputation. The VA decided to consolidate OSI and VERC, but under the primacy of OSI instead of merging OSI into VERC as the Commission on Care had suggested.
OSI’s leadership decided to implement this merger by terminating approximately 127 term federal employees making up the bulk of VERC’s staff and replacing them with contractor employees of a company called Enterprise Resource Performance, Inc. (ERPI).
During the Fall of 2016, Mr. Hundt voiced his vigorous opposition to the manner in which OSI leaders were implementing the merger. He found several issues for concern, including: Favoritism towards ERPI (there is a close personal relationship between the senior OSI manager and an ERPI VP); ERPI’s erroneous designation as an SDVOSB; much higher costs of ERPI’s work over when the feds did it; OSI utilizing ERPI to perform inherently governmental functions; a violation of an 0MB circular, and; violations of law regarding the merger of OSI and VERC.
Almost immediately OSI managers engaged in retaliation against Mr. Hundt by, issuing a written counseling statement; placing him on detail to unassigned duties; placing him under a gag order and under an Administrative Investigative Board (AIB) investigation; placing him under a VA Office of the Inspector General (OIG) investigation with a disingenuous predicate; recommending him to the Undersecretary for Health for removal from Federal service; refusing to promote him; demoting, threatening, and intimidating him for requesting OSI documents via the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA); and finally, as Mr. Hundt alleges, calling and threatening his wife and children. At least some of these actions constitute prohibited personnel actions including the detail to unassigned duties, demoting him and denying a promotion, and applying a gag order.
Hundt was terminated as of December 18, 2018, and Government Accountability Project continues to advocate on his behalf.