By Debbie Gregory.
On January 20th, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced that it will be offering “whistleblower” relief to over two dozen VA employees. The employees, who had been threatened with retaliation from their superiors, had filed complaints about wrongdoing at VA medical facilities and clinics throughout the country.
Last year, a settlement was reached with three VA employees who blew the whistle on issues concerning unacceptable appointment wait times and falsified waitlists at the Phoenix VA Hospital. These events prompted a national response from Congress, Veterans, and the general public, including legislative measures and the forced resignation of then-VA Secretary General Eric Shinseki. And the settlement has prompted the VA to offer relief to others.
The VA’s actions offer relief to approximately 25 VA employees who faced reprimands, poor evaluations or threats of repercussions after reporting errors and misconduct within the VA healthcare system.
Currently, more than 120 complaints of retaliation are under investigation throughout the VA’s 970 facilities nationwide, following employee allegations about improper patient scheduling, understaffing and other problems.
VA Secretary Robert McDonald had previously promised to eliminate retaliation against whistleblowers as the VA looks to change its image and its culture. The VA has a decades-long reputation for providing service to Veterans that is slower than private sector healthcare.
The VA is now being applauded for its willingness to change, taking steps to protect its employees who file whistleblower complaints, and implementing widespread changes in policy throughout the department.
The VA is committed to holding those who retaliated against the whistleblowers accountable.VA employees who blow the whistle on their superiors because they have identified a legitimate problem should not be punished, they should be protected. And in the opinion of Deputy VA Secretary Sloan Gibson, they should be praised.
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