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Retaliation against VA whistleblowers under investigation

Retaliation against VA whistleblowers under investigation

Office of Special Counsel investigating retaliation allegations from 37 VA whistleblowers

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]

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Comments

The VA’s culture of corruption is well documented. Management and union officials have cooperated to punish, intimidate, and generally purge whistle-blowers from the Department for at least the last 10 years.

The cosmetic “solution” proposed by McCain-Sanders will do nothing. The only beneficiaries will be vets who have been waiting too long already.

SHUT IT DOWN. Give vets federal employee insurance, and pay all their co-pays and deductibles at any licensed doctor or hospital of their choosing. No more wait times, no more long drives, and better care to boot.

At San Diego and Phoenix (and probably everywhere, these were the ones surveyed), a single cardiologist in private practice treats more patients than EIGHT on the VA staff.

You can’t reform that kind of inefficiency. These are people willing to subject vets to neglect to pocket bonus money. They deserve prison time, not cushy federal jobs.

SHUT IT DOWN.

    C. Lashown in reply to Estragon. | June 7, 2014 at 6:24 pm

    RE: “At San Diego and Phoenix (and probably everywhere, these were the ones surveyed), a single cardiologist in private practice treats more patients than EIGHT on the VA staff.”

    Yes, money is a huge motivator to get work done but contrary to the social utopia that our government has been working to create for decades. I am convinced that many people join the medical profession from a sincere concern for others well being. However, working for the VA a person becomes an employee. Unions, assigned schedules, quota’s to meet, limited care, a restricted/limited pharmacy inventory — it’s hard to run a race with your ankles shackled. All of these limit the care that a veteran is “allowed” to receive.

    Cutting edge drugs and treatments in most cases are not promoted by the VA. What term would best describe the care that the veteran receives? Managed care or reactive care is the best that I can imagine. There are incidents where the VA medical staff just don’t care very much, although they will never admit to that: they are not allowed to fully treat a person except in the most basic of medical needs. The VA medical staff considers itself responsible to limit information and treatment just as much as they consider it their duty to treat the veteran.

    Then of course, like any government business, there is the issue of performance bonuses. This is all based upon ‘numbers’. How many people did you treat, how much did it cost, how many man hours involved, tests, drugs, time – all these pegs must fit in their assigned hole. The only problem is that people are all different, with different needs and requirements. When doctors become employees then the artistry of affective compassion suffers. Affective is the key word. The VA, with government tutelage, is designed to manufacture an acceptable paper trail of adequate acceptable care. Reality says otherwise and has screamed for decades about the mistreatment of America’s ex-military. Politicians wring their hands, clucking their tongues and pat their voting constituents on the head: “There there Johnny, everything is going to get better. I’ll take care of it!” It never does get better, things just get shuffled around.

Veterans who cannot be scheduled within 14 days should be able to be seen by any treatment source that the VA employees are able to see in any of their federal health insurance plans. Their care should be as good as the care available to the employees charged with caring for our veterans. And no copays or deductibles. If this agency was staffed according to work produced most of them would be RIF’ed.

I don’t understand why these veterans didn’t go to non-VA hospitals when their very lives were at stake despite the rules and regulations imposed by the VA.

This is not to justify the VA in any way, but to question the mind set of those trapped in VA system.

I suspect many of these veterans didn’t realize their lives were at risk.

Most people are just not very medically savvy, and I suspect that is even more true of elderly veterans than of the general population.

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