He exposed secret wait lists, wait-time manipulations, and veterans selling medications.
Fox News has reported that another doctor has claimed the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has retaliated against him after he revealed wrongdoings at the hospital for which he works.
Dr. Dale Klein “works” at the Southeast Missouri John J. Pershing VA in Poplar Bluff, MO, but that work consists of staring at a blank wall all day because as he told the inspector general there are “secret wait-lists and wait-time manipulation” at the VA.
Klein makes $250,000 a year as a “double board certified physician and Yale University fellow.” He loved helping veterans, but when he noticed those wait lists, wait-time manipulations, and that some veterans sold their medications to others, he spoke to his superiors.
Those superiors did nothing, but Klein knew something had to be done. So he spoke to the inspector general. He told Fox News that the VA started its retaliation against him almost immediately:
Klein was initially placed on administrative leave. The Missouri-V.A. closed his pain management clinic and tried to terminate him. According to court documents, the V.A. tried to fire Klein “not based on substandard care or lack of clinical competence” but instead for “consistent acceleration of trivial matters through his chain of command.”
“I do not consider secret wait-lists and manipulations of wait times to be trivial matters,” Klein said.
How dare Klein try to provide the best possible care for those who deserve it the most!
But since the Office of Special Counsel pointed out Klein is a whistleblower, the VA could not fire him. So they decided to make his life miserable and deny the veterans the care he could provide them:
“It could set a bad precedent for other whistleblowers because they’re going to say, ‘I don’t want to risk my livelihood, my career, my security because I see what happened to Dr. Klein and I don’t want that to happen to me or my family’,” said Natalie Khawam, president and founder of the Whistleblower Law Firm, which represents Klein.
Senate Homeland Security and Government Committee Chair Ron Johnson (R-WI) has tried to step in for Klein. He wrote the VA and asked the department to “cease all retaliatory action” and has grown “concerned about a doctor who could be utilizing his skills to help veterans, but who is not able to utilize those skills.”
After I came across the Fox article, I decided to Google VA whistleblowers, and you would not believe the stories I found. But is anyone really shocked? I’m not.
Veterans Affairs Hospital in Phoenix, AZ
In May 2014, a whistleblower took the nation by storm when he spilled that at least 1,400 veterans “languished without care” at the hospital and even more went without appointments for two years. At least 215 veterans died because of these actions.
Well, it turns out that the VA retaliated against him and others:
Now, the whistleblower who alerted the OSC to these alarming numbers tells NBC News that he believes his desire to save veterans’ lives came with a price: the VA retaliated against him with harassment, insurmountable work tasks and by placing him under surveillance and investigation for not solving the scheduling problem the VA created.
“As an Iraq veteran, it makes me feel like dirt that bureaucratic civilians who’ve never served this country are abusing vets like me, and killing vets who have are defenseless because they’re ill,” said Kuauhtemoc Rodriguez, a scheduling manager for the Phoenix VA’s specialty care. “They know the price of freedom and the VA abuses that, and benefits off the backs of veterans.”
Denver, CO, VA Facilities
Last November, Department of VA employee Brian Smothers resigned due to the retaliation he faced after he reported “the agency was using unauthorized wait lists for mental health care in Colorado.” The VA actually “opened two separate inquiries into his actions and tried to get him to sign a statement saying he had broken VA rules.” He refused to sign and faced backlash:
Smothers also said the VA reassigned him to an office with no computer access, no significant duties and no social contact.
He called the VA’s actions punitive and his working conditions intolerable. He said he resigned as of Tuesday.
VA officials had no immediate comment on Smothers’ claim that he was punished for speaking up but said the agency does not tolerate retaliation. They said previously they take any allegation about unauthorized wait lists seriously and were cooperating with an inquiry.
Smothers alleges that Colorado VA facilities in Denver and suburban Golden used unauthorized wait lists for mental health services from 2012 until last September. He said the lists hid how long it takes for veterans to get treatment and made the demand for mental health care appear lower than it really was.
He said the longer that veterans have to wait for mental healthcare, the less likely they are to use it when it becomes available.