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Whistle-blowers describe retaliation at VA hospitals

Wisconsin residents with ties to VA hospitals may be surprised to learn about allegations of retaliation against whistle-blowers at the agency. Beginning in 2014, there have been a number of scandals associated with treatment of patients in the hospital system including long wait times during which some patients have died while waiting for treatment. The panel of whistle-blowers who testified April 13 before a subcommittee of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs were drawn from a number of states including California, Alabama and Delaware.

The panel described a number of retaliatory practices that included efforts to isolate and discredit employees who raised concerns about the ways in which the agency operated. One doctor described having his office moved to a storage room. Another was forced off the VA campus where he worked while another doctor described practices that were meant to intimidate employees, which included reduced performance ratings for employees who attempted to bring problems to the attention of managers.

The problems appear to be ongoing. In 2014, an Office of Accountability Review was established and is handling dozens of cases, including 15 incidents for whistle-blower retaliation. However, despite the widespread reports of retaliation, only three managers have been fired so far.

Individuals have the right to report wrongdoing in their workplace whether the employer is a private company or a federal agency. In addition to the types of abuses reported by VA whistle-blowers, some individuals may be aware of instances of fraud against a government agency. For example, an individual might work for a private company and know that the company is not billing the government correctly for services. That individual may have attempted to report the fraud but then faced a demotion form their employer. An individual who is aware of such practices may wish to consult an attorney if they face such retaliation.

Source: CNN, "VA whistleblowers still face retaliation, witnesses say," Curt Devine, April 13, 2015

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