The Veterans Administration has been criticized recently for some very questionable uses of taxpayer funds, at the same time it is unable to provide timely health services to veterans. There are plenty of people, it seems, who need to be fired in the upper reaches of the VA hierarchy.
But it wasn’t anyone in the executive suite who got fired at the VA Medical Center in downtown Charleston, SC in April 2015. It was a construction worker. His crime was refilling a soda without paying for it. The dollar amount of the theft: 89 cents.
VA officials did eventually relent and issue the man a warning instead of making him pay the $525 federal fine. He was still out of the job, however.
WISTV 10 reported the story:
Officials with the VA Medical Center in downtown Charleston say a North Charleston man who was initially federally charged with a $525 fine for an $.89 drink refill will instead be given a warning.
“In reviewing the case, the Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center has determined a warning in lieu of a citation is sufficient in this case,” a statement released by the VA stated on Thursday.
Christopher Lewis, an on-site construction worker, said he didn’t know refills at the VA Medical Center in downtown Charleston came at a price, and Wednesday, during his lunch hour, he was originally slapped with federal charges. The ticket was issued by the Federal Police Force at the VA Medical Center in downtown Charleston after Lewis refilled his soda without paying the $0.89. A hospital spokesperson on Wednesday called it a “theft of government property.”
“Every time I look at the ticket, it’s unbelievable to me,” Lewis said on Wednesday. “I can’t fathom the fact that I made a $0.89 mistake that cost me $525.”
Lewis is now out of a job. According to a hospital spokesperson, signs are posted in the cafeteria informing patrons that refills aren’t free. Lewis says he never noticed the signs and admits he had refilled his drink without paying on other occasions. He says after he went back for seconds on Wednesday, a man who identified himself as the chief of police, stopped him.
“As I was filling my cup up, I turned to walk off and a fella grabbed me by the arm and asked me was I going to pay for that, and I told him I wasn’t aware that I had to pay for that.”
Lewis says he tried to pay the $0.89 right there, but wasn’t allowed to. He says he wasn’t given the chance to pay the cashier either.
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