Military Connection: Coming Changes to VA: By Debbie Gregory

New Acting Secretary Of Veterans Affairs Visits Phoenix VA Medical Center

By Debbie Gregory

Acting-VA Secretary Sloan Gibson announced on July 8, 2014 that the department will restructure its Office of the Medical Inspector (OMI).

The OMI is the division of the VA that monitors and improves the quality of care that is provided to Veterans by the Veteran Health Administration.  VA employees, Veteran patients, caretakers and family members are encouraged to notify the OMI of any issues pertaining to the quality of VA healthcare.

The change to the OMI comes after months of demands for VA reform from law makers and Veteran advocacy groups, who wish to see an improvement in the quality of VA healthcare. Long wait times for Veterans’ medical appointments and the widespread covering up of those wait times created a national backlash against the VA and its employees.

Since the scandal broke, many stories have been brought to light revealing instances where VA employees had attempted to blow the whistle on the misconduct. They were threatened, suspended or terminated by their superiors at the VA, in order to keep up the facade that their facility was in compliance with the VA standards for patient wait times.

Acting-secretary Gibson has focused on whistle-blower protection. Over the few weeks that he has been in charge, Gibson has met with VA employees at facilities across the country. And on June 13th, Gibson disseminated the following letter:

“As I told our workforce, intimidation or retaliation – not just against whistle-blowers, but against any employee who raises a hand to identify a problem, make a suggestion, or report what may be a violation in law, policy, or our core values – is absolutely unacceptable. I will not tolerate it in our organization.”

The VA decided to restructure the OMI based on recommendations made by the U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC). The OSC sent a letter to President Obama on June 23rd concerning VA employees who could be deemed whistle-blowers.

After the OSC’s letter to the president, Gibson ordered an immediate review of the OMI’s process, procedures and structure. The review exposed a clear need to revise the policies, procedures, and personnel structure under which the OMI operates. As a result, Gibson directed the restructuring of the office.

Acting-secretary Gibson offered the following statement on the restructuring of the OMI:

“At VA, we depend on VA employees and leaders to put the needs of Veterans first and honor VA’s core values of Integrity, Commitment, Advocacy, Respect, and Excellence. 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.”

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Military Connection: Coming Change to VA: By Debbie Gregory