On one side there is the acting Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Peter O’Rourke and on the other side, the VA’s watchdog, Inspector General Michael Missal. In between are the whistleblowers — those brave enough to step forward and report fraud being committed against the U.S. governmental agency.
In an exchange of vitriolic letters, Missal and O’Rourke have publicly questioned each other’s motives and authority in the implementation of the Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act.
When the bill passed last year, President Trump hailed its usefulness in the fight to weed out incompetence and wrongdoing at the VA. But Missal and congressional allies apparently believe the administration is now thwarting whistleblowers who would cast a negative light on VA leadership put in place by the president.
Missal stated in an early June letter to O’Rourke that his office has been blocked from access to records on whistleblowers by the VA’s Office of Accountability and Whistleblower Protection (OAWP), formerly headed by O’Rourke.
“Refusing to provide this information not only violates the law, but also hinders the OIG’s ability to fulfil its statutory oversight function,” Missal stated.
O’Rourke fired back a few days later, writing: “You are reminded that [the inspector general] is loosely tethered to VA, and in your specific case as the VA inspector general, I am your immediate supervisor. You are directed to act accordingly.”
Missal returned fire, writing that he was notifying Congress of O’Rourke’s “failure to allow my office the access to the OAWP records to which the OIG is entitled.” Missal also stated that he was concerned by O’Rourke’s “unsupported and false accusations” against his office.
A Minnesota congressman wrote the VA’s leadership is “using the [accountability] bill to inappropriately retaliate against whistleblowers” who would bring negative attention to the VA and the administration.
Clearly, questions about the VA’s willingness to protect whistleblowers need to be resolved so that those who step forward to stop fraud do not suffer unlawful retaliation in the workplace.
An employment law attorney experienced in whistleblower protection can help you to file an anti-fraud lawsuit that can result in both justice and compensation. Contact Alan C. Olson & Associates, s.c. for more information.