The Office of Special Counsel, a federal agency that “[protects] federal employees from reprisal and other prohibited personnel practices” and provides “a safe and secure channel for federal employees to disclose government misconduct,” said it is investigating allegations of retaliation against dozens of whistleblowers in the Department of Veterans Affairs.

From CBS DC News:

A federal investigative agency is looking into claims that Veterans Affairs supervisors retaliated against 37 employees who filed whistleblower complaints, including some who complained about improper scheduling practices at the heart of a growing health care scandal.

The independent Office of Special Counsel says it has blocked disciplinary actions against three VA employees who reported wrongdoing, including one who was suspended for seven days after complaining to the VA’s inspector general about improper scheduling.

The agency also blocked a 30-day suspension without pay for another VA employee who reported inappropriate use of patient restraints and blocked demotion of a third employee who reported mishandling of patient care funds, a spokesman said Friday.

The full press release from the Office of Special Counsel can be read here.

News of the OSC investigation follows weeks of reports about problems in the Veterans Affairs department, including revelations of secret waiting lists at VA facilities intended to hide the actual amount of time veterans were waiting to be scheduled for appointments.

The Acting Veterans Affairs Secretary said Friday that any such acts of intimidation or retaliation against whistleblowers would be unacceptable.

From the Associated Press via Yahoo News:

“I think that is wrong. It is absolutely unacceptable,” Acting Veterans Affairs Secretary Sloan Gibson said Friday.

“There have been questions raised about intimidation or even retaliation. There is a law that forbids that, and we’ll follow the law,” Gibson said at a news conference Friday following a visit to a San Antonio VA facility.

Gibson said on Friday that 18 Arizona veterans left off a VA facility’s formal wait list have died while waiting for appointments, though it was not known whether the delay in care was a direct cause in those fatalities, according to USA Today.

Senior senators reached an agreement Thursday on a bill intended to address some of the issues recently reported in the Veterans Affairs department.  While that proposal would allow veterans experiencing wait times of longer than 30 days to seek care outside of a VA facility, it would require that care be with private doctors enrolled as providers in the Medicare or military TRICARE system, according to the Associated Press.

[Featured image: NBC News video]