Skip to comments.Numerous reports of whistleblower reprisals trigger VA office overhaul
Posted on 07/08/2014 10:06:06 PM PDT by Jet Jaguar
WASHINGTON Jose Mathews became chief of psychiatry for the VA in St. Louis and quickly realized the departments reported wait times for veterans seeking treatment did not match reality.
Deeply troubled by what he saw, Mathews raised $60,000 from private donors to conduct his own survey to help determine whether patients were getting timely psychiatric care at the citys Department of Veterans Affairs facilities.
The VA launched an investigation of the doctor and immediately moved him from the management position to a new job evaluating compensation for mental disorders, said Mathews, who testified before the House Veterans Affairs Committee on Tuesday evening.
Numerous reports of similar reprisals in the wake of a national scandal over access to care spurred the VA on Tuesday to announce an overhaul of its Office of Medical Inspector, which has been criticized by federal investigators for whitewashing complaints from whistleblowers within the department.
They have already professionally assassinated me, Mathews told House lawmakers investigating the reports of whistleblower reprisals. Are we protecting the veterans or are we protecting the VA employees?
There are now 67 active investigations into retaliation against VA whistleblowers in 28 states, said Carolyn Lerner, head of the U.S. Office of Special Counsel, an independent watchdog agency created to protect those who report wrongdoing in the federal government.
Lerner, who also testified before the House on Tuesday, said the VA often ignored or denied valuable whistleblower reports on threats to patient care that the OSC shared.
However, there have been recent encouraging signs that the VA is interested in fixing problems with how whistleblower complaints are handled, she said.
Earlier on Tuesday, Acting VA Secretary Sloan Gibson announced major changes in the office that handles the reports.
Given recent revelations by the Office of Special Counsel, it is clear that we need to restructure the Office of Medical Inspector to create a strong internal audit function which will ensure issues of care quality and patient safety remain at the forefront, Gibson said in a released statement Tuesday.
VA Chief Medical Inspector John R. Pierce, who served in the position for a decade, resigned June 30 under fire over the treatment of whistleblowers.
Gibson said the VA will appoint an interim director of OMI from outside that office to assist with an overhaul of how internal complaints and concerns over medical treatment are handled.
Meanwhile, the VA will suspend the OMIs whistleblower hotline and refer all calls to the VA inspector general.
According to the whistleblowers who testified before the House on Tuesday, staff throughout the VA have been systematically ignoring concerns and discouraging reports of wrongdoing.
Another physician, Katherine Mitchell, the medical director for the Phoenix VAs Iraq and Afghanistan Post-Deployment Center, said the department staff closed her off nurses refused to communicate or provide needed help when she reported serious shortcomings in emergency medical services.
The VA scandal began in late April, after a whistleblowing doctor reported that 40 veterans may have died because of delays in care at Phoenix.
In a pattern repeated with other whistleblowers, the VA transferred Mitchell to a new, unrelated position without addressing her complaints, she said.
Staff who make such reports not only risk their VA jobs but also their ability to get new employment elsewhere after being removed from positions within the department, Mitchell said.
This is bullying; thats what it amounts to, said Rep. Tim Walz, D-Minn., who sits on the Veterans Affairs Committee.
Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., chairman of the Veterans Affairs Committee, said Mathews is one of hundreds of whistleblowers who have approached the committee about wrongdoing and reprisals since the scandal broke in late April.
During the House hearing, Miller strongly criticized what he called an organizational cesspool within the VA that prized protecting managers over veteran care and led to preventable deaths at facilities across the country.
In every one of these locations, whistleblowers played a vital role in exposing misconduct within the department, Miller said.
V A ping.
The VA should be closed down and veterans simply given a card to get government paid benefits from private health care resources. The VA is a total mess and cannot be “reformed”.
The VA is a total disaster. It’s computer technology, last time I had any sort of a look at it which was around 4 years ago, was two decades out of date and borderline for dysfunctional.
these organizations are a symptom of the disease named Obama. They took on the personality of their leader, which is one of untouchable arrogance and punishment for non-compliance. This was 100% avoidable.
“these organizations are a symptom of the disease named Obama.”
While government workers are the backbone of the Democratic Party, these problems pre-date Obama. I believe they are more related to the number of traumatic injuries from the wars against Islam that in the past would have been fatalities.
’Are we protecting the veterans or are we protecting the VA employees?’
It’s a good question and the answer is that only the employees matter. The government’s philosophy on this was clearly stated when I spoke to someone in the Office For The Aging in N.Y. State where my elderly parents live.
I said that NY should have tax breaks for retired people who would love to return home to care for their elderly parents, but can’t afford it. It would take some of the burden off the government, provide more personal care, and be a win-win for all concerned.
In a rare moment of truthfulness (or extreme naivete), the girl told me. “Oh, we’re not here for the senior citizens. We’re here to make jobs for people in the office.”
Add this to the the long list of bureaucratic failures and
abuses where no one is held accountable. All these things,
from 911 to the IRS scandal, that were disastrous and caused
major harm to the American people, and not one person is
held accountable. Yet I can drive across town with my front
license plate off and get pulled by four different law
enforcement agencies before I get home to put it back on.
Harris County Sheriffs Department, Houston Police Department,
Spring Valley Police DPT., and Jersey Village PD. All this
in the sanctuary city of Houston.
Remember when we - as children in the 50’s - were told repeatedly about Russian citizens acting as the secret police?
And how people would lose there jobs or be put under surveillance or be sent “north”?
Well, now . . . .
Wrong! As much as I hate Obama and all that he stands for, the VA has been a mess for decades. But then so is every other federal governmental institution, and the states are no better.
Really, the only difference between the VA and the Post Office, or say the GSA, is that these other organizations are not in the position to kill people! Our government has devolved into a bunch of selfish, self-serving union goons who care only about what's in it for them. Their “crime” is getting caught. And when you couple this attitude with a judicial system that is designed to never resolve any problem and mete out punishment that is commensurate with the criminal activity involved, what you are seeing today everywhere should not be a surprise. What we need in the case of the VA is Nuremberg style trials for large groups of these people, with the end result of serious jail time and being stripped of all pension and healthcare benefits. There is simply no deterrence in “picking off" a few of the most egregious violators, or shuffling them to another position within the government a la Benghazi.
the government needs to be reduced by at least half, probably more.
I think probably more. Some agencies need to be closed down completely, as they really have no reason for their very existence if we actually believe in our Constitution. Beyond that, we need to do as a lot of other Western nations have done, and turn over the Postal Service to private enterprise, and most importantly, get them completely out of the healthcare business.
The states should shoulder a lot of what the Fed Gov has usurped.