Tuesday, June 10, 2014

VA Accused of Retaliating against Whistleblowers

ALLGOV | Jun 9, 2014 | Noel Brinkerhoff

Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) wasn’t in enough trouble already, federal lawyers are now investigating the agency over allegations of retaliating against whistleblowers.
As if the

The U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC) announced this week that it has received complaints from 37 VA workers claiming their superiors punished them for speaking out about problems at the embattled agency—including reports similar to the current controversy over improper scheduling of medical visits for veterans.

OSC chief Carolyn Lerner
Lawyers with OSC say they stopped the VA recently from taking disciplinary actions against three VA whistleblowers. “OSC appreciates the VA’s cooperation in providing interim relief to these employees,” said OSC chief 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.”

One case involved an employee who hadn’t been disciplined during 20 years of service, but was now facing a 30-day suspension without pay for reporting on the use of patient restraints in violation of VA rules and procedures. His suspension was stayed.

Another worker faced a weeklong suspension and other actions after informing the inspector general about improper scheduling and coding procedures at the facility. That worker’s punishment was also put on hold.

OSC is looking into 49 reports of scheduling improprieties and potential threats to patient safety at VA facilities, with more than 80 pending claims on file by agency employees at facilities in Arkansas, Arizona, California, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Kentucky, Michigan, North Carolina, New York, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah and Wyoming.

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