As previously written in this blog, if you are male and have not registered with the Selective Service and are considering a Title 38 position with the US Department of Veterans Affairs — don’t bother. Despite its critical shortage of medical professionals, the VA continues to turn away well-qualified medical professionals who did not register with the Selective Service System — even when it is proven by clear and convincing evidence (which is higher than the preponderance of evidence standard the VA purports to apply) that the failure to register was not knowing and willful.
In a recent case, we represented a young physician who applied for and was accepted for a residency at a program which included a rotation at a VA hospital in Wisconsin. Unfortunately, after forgoing other opportunities and moving to Wisconsin with his spouse (also a resident), the VA discovered that our client was not registered with the Selective Service and informed him that he was not eligible to participate in their program because of his registration status. We timely appealed that decision to the VA (OPM does not hear cases involving Title 38 employees). During this process, we assembled a virtual mountain of sworn declarations from family members, school administration officials and others proving that our client simply never learned about the registration requirement while eligible to register. We also had written support from the VA hospital and from veterans organizations. Our client even submitted to and passed a lie detector test conclusively establishing that he never learned of his obligation to register.
Despite all of this evidence, the VA summarily rejected our client’s explanation. In a nutshell, the VA based its decision on the premise that every male is “assumed to know” of the obligation to register — a baseless and unreasonable rationale that flies in the face of well-known statistical facts, basic logic and ignores the fact that OPM routinely makes findings on identical facts that the failure to register was not knowing and willful. We were advised by a VA official involved in the process that VA’s position with regard to Selective Service cases originates within the Office of General Counsel. The VA needs to wake up and take heed of the fact that its irrational decisions are actually damaging the mission of the Agency and hurting veterans.
In the end, the VA’s arbitrary actions have caused it to lose yet another doctor to care for veterans who desperately need medical care.