Investigators Are Looking Into 37 Whistleblower Reprisal Complaints from VA Employees

bikeriderlondon/Shutterstock.com

The Official of Special Counsel on Thursday announced it is looking into 37 cases of possible retaliation against whistleblowers at the Veterans Affairs Department, some involving precisely the type of complaints that triggered the current VA controversy.

The announcement came as acting Veterans Affairs Secretary Sloan Gibson traveled to Phoenix to visit staff at the medical center where charges first surfaced that patients were kept on secret waiting lists by managers doctoring the dates to collect efficiency bonuses.

The complaints to OSC come from employees and facilities in 19 states, and were announced after the small independent agency blocked disciplinary actions against three VA employees after they disclosed alleged wrongdoing in veterans patient care. At OSC’s request, the VA agreed to stay the proposed discipline to allow OSC to further investigate the reprisal claims.

“OSC appreciates the VA’s cooperation in providing interim relief to these employees,” stated Special Counsel Carolyn Lerner. “Receiving candid information about harmful practices from employees will be critical to the VA’s efforts to identify problems and find solutions. However, employees will not come forward if they fear retaliation.”

In the last fiscal year, OSC has obtained 14 corrective actions on behalf of VA employees. It plans to continue to seek relief and protection for VA whistleblowers where the facts and circumstances support their claims, the agency said.

In one case, OSC in early May obtained a stay of a proposed 30-day suspension without pay for a VA employee who reported the inappropriate and continuous use of patient restraints in violation of VA rules and procedures. The employee had never before been disciplined in more than two decades working for the VA, the special counsel said in a statement, though the case remains open.

In a separate case, a VA employee was given a proposed seven-day suspension after telling the inspector general about improper scheduling and coding procedures at the facility. The employee also alleged that the VA lowered the employee’s performance evaluation and reassigned the employee in retaliation for disclosures to the IG.

In a third case, OSC obtained a stay for a VA employee in December 2013 after the employee was temporarily reassigned out of a position and then faced demotion after disclosing the mishandling of patient care funds. That investigation continues.

In all, OSC is currently reviewing 49 disclosures related to scheduling improprieties and other potential threats to patient safety at VA facilities, for a total of more than 80 pending claims by VA employees.

(Image via bikeriderlondon/Shutterstock.com)

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Forecasting Cloud's Future

    Conversations with Federal, State, and Local Technology Leaders on Cloud-Driven Digital Transformation

    Download
  • The Big Data Campaign Trail

    With everyone so focused on security following recent breaches at federal, state and local government and education institutions, there has been little emphasis on the need for better operations. This report breaks down some of the biggest operational challenges in IT management and provides insight into how agencies and leaders can successfully solve some of the biggest lingering government IT issues.

    Download
  • Communicating Innovation in Federal Government

    Federal Government spending on ‘obsolete technology’ continues to increase. Supporting the twin pillars of improved digital service delivery for citizens on the one hand, and the increasingly optimized and flexible working practices for federal employees on the other, are neither easy nor inexpensive tasks. This whitepaper explores how federal agencies can leverage the value of existing agency technology assets while offering IT leaders the ability to implement the kind of employee productivity, citizen service improvements and security demanded by federal oversight.

    Download
  • IT Transformation Trends: Flash Storage as a Strategic IT Asset

    MIT Technology Review: Flash Storage As a Strategic IT Asset For the first time in decades, IT leaders now consider all-flash storage as a strategic IT asset. IT has become a new operating model that enables self-service with high performance, density and resiliency. It also offers the self-service agility of the public cloud combined with the security, performance, and cost-effectiveness of a private cloud. Download this MIT Technology Review paper to learn more about how all-flash storage is transforming the data center.

    Download
  • Ongoing Efforts in Veterans Health Care Modernization

    This report discusses the current state of veterans health care

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.