Surrounded by mountains and forest, Kalispell, Montana, is the gateway to one of the nation’s natural wonders: Glacier National Park. The beautiful scenery is a backdrop to an ugly scandal focused on the 138-bed hospital that takes its name from the town. The medical center has been roiled by charges that physicians there took illegal kickbacks and defrauded the federal government.
On its website, Bayada Home Health Care urges its employees to “do the right thing.” Three former employees believe they’ve done just that by filing a whistleblower lawsuit that accuses Bayada of fraudulent Medicare billing.
Six years ago, a Department of the Interior employee reported to his supervisors that the federal department had violated the National Environmental Policy Act in order to make it easier for Arctic Ocean oil exploration. When Jeffrey Missal's supervisors showed little interest, he reported the infraction to the department's Inspector General.
Three years ago, a scandal regarding over-prescription of medications erupted at a Wisconsin VA hospital about three hours west of Milwaukee. Substandard care for veterans at the Tomah facility was only exposed when a whistleblower bravely stepped forward and pointed out wrongdoing.
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.
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has been beset in recent years by scandals, including here in Wisconsin at the Tomah facility about three hours northwest of Milwaukee. The scandals that have plagued VA hospitals across the nation have come to light because of the bravery of whistleblowers who will not turn a blind eye to misconduct.
Here's a hypothetical situation: you land a new job with a Milwaukee employer, but quickly realize that the company is defrauding the federal government. What do you do? How long will you wait to report the illegal activity? And what do you do if your employer does not agree to end the fraud?
There were two powerful narratives that made Lance Armstrong into a transformative athlete. He was not only the world's greatest cyclist, winning the Tour de France a record seven consecutive times, but he was also a cancer survivor who was an inspiration to people around the world.
We don't know where being burned alive ranks on the list of worst possible ways to go, but it must be near or at the top. Far from Milwaukee, a mortuary worker was threatened with being cremated alive if he revealed ongoing fraud committed by his employer.
Even if you are not directly responsible for breaking federal law in a scheme to avoid import duties, you might find yourself under the microscope of prosecutors. That is one of the takeaways from the recently announced settlement of a whistleblower lawsuit against a clothing wholesaler.