Wisconsin veterans may be concerned about multiple whistleblowers who have alleged that they faced retaliation after coming forward with stories of patient abuse and mismanagement at several VA facilities. The U.S. Office of Special Counsel has received 37 complaints from VA employees. The OSC – the agency investigating the claims involving VA facilities in 19 states – says that there appears to be a culture that punishes whistleblowers. Since May 15, the website VAOversight.org has received around 640 submissions, around 20 percent of which were filed by former and current VA employees.
In one instance, an employee alleged that patient care funds were being mishandled, and the individual was later demoted. In another case, a longtime VA employee with a perfect record filed a report alleging that patients had been restrained inappropriately and was suspended afterward.
In addition to the retribution claims, the OSC is conducting a review of nearly 50 employee reports regarding highly publicized long waiting lists and other problems at 1,700 VA sites and 152 hospitals around the country.The OSC is a independent agency that focuses specifically on enforcing the Whistleblower Protection Act through investigation and prosecution. According to a statement released by Special Counsel Carolyn Lerner, it is crucial for the VA to receive candid information from employees in order to properly identify and rectify internal issues, but employees will refuse to come forward if they are afraid of retaliation.
Whistleblowers are legally protected against retaliation in the workplace. Individuals who have been harassed, demoted or fired as the result of reporting fraud or other activities may be entitled to attorney’s fees, litigation costs and back pay. A employment law attorney with a background in workplace harassment cases may be able to negotiate with an employer for a settlement. If the employer refuses to pay compensation, the case may move forward to the litigation phase.
Source: FOX News, “Price of coming forward: 37 VA whistle-blowers claim retaliation“, Joshua Rhett Miller, June 06, 2014