Veterans Affairs scandal includes whistleblower complaints

In a scandal that affects facilities in Wisconsin and across the nation, the Office of Special Counsel is looking into 37 claims of retaliation against those who reported problems at the Veterans Affairs Department. The alleged whistleblower incidents have occurred at VA facilities across 19 states. Employees claim they have suffered retaliation after reporting incidents that include poor handling of money, not following scheduling procedures and the inappropriate restraint of patients.

In addition to allegations of retaliation, much of the controversy has revolved around claims that veterans did not receive timely treatment and the falsification of record to cover up those delays. The VA Secretary stepped down on May 30 because of the issues after issuing a statement of public apology.

Examples of retaliation include an employee who was suspended for a month without pay after he reported that staff improperly restrained patients. The man had not received prior disciplinary action in more than two decades of service. Another case involved an employee who was suspended for a week for pointing out incorrect scheduling practices, and a third incident involved a report regarding the mishandling of funds. That employee was transferred to a new position and was allegedly threatened with a demotion. In all of these cases, the OSC has directed the VA to take no action until they finish their investigation.

A new federal law, The Whistleblower Protection and Enhancement Act, took effect in 2012 and gave the OSC more power to protect whistleblowers. While it is investigating more cases, some federal employees suggest that they hesitate to report problems in many cases.

Just as in the case above, individuals who suffer retaliation for protected whistleblowing actions may be able to pursue claims seeking compensation from employers An employment attorney might be able to defend a client who has been a victim of retaliation or unfair dismissal.

Source: Federal News Radio, “OSC investigating dozens of claims of whistleblower retaliation at VA“, Jack Moore, June 05, 2014

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