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.
Kmart's financial struggles over the past few years have been well publicized. The retail outlet has closed hundreds of stores, with 45 more scheduled to lock their doors in early 2018. (According to the retailer’s website, it currently has 8 Wisconsin stores, including one a few miles south of Milwaukee.) So it's understandable that executives looked for ways to increase income for the chain.
The legal journey began when two emergency room doctors became aware of a scheme by a major hospital chain and a pair of physicians groups to defraud taxpayers of millions of dollars. Though it is never easy to buck the system, the two doctors listened to their consciences and filed a whistleblower lawsuit against the physicians groups.
Social Security Disability is one of the nation's most important safety nets, offering financial assistance and medical care to workers who are prevented from continuing their careers by injury or illness. When someone defrauds the Social Security Disability benefits system, it hurts all of us, but most especially taxpayers and those with disabilities.