This Tuesday, VA announced it is offering payoffs to VA whistleblowers who faced retaliation nationwide after filing complaints about wrongdoing at VA hospitals and clinics.
The move is a great step, but what about retaliation against veterans in the health care system who were also retaliated against after filing complaints, too?
Last year, VA sent and offer to three Phoenix VA employees who faced retaliation after blowing the lid off illegal and fraudulent scams engaged in by other VA employees. The new round of relief offers is sent to 25 VA employees. This includes a doctor formerly associated with a Maryland VA clinic who was reprimanded after reporting crimes against veterans.
The independent watchdog organization Office of Special Counsel (OSC) applauded the steps. OSC attorney Carolyn Lerner stated, “Secretary McDonald has taken whistleblowing within the VA seriously.” She continued, “He recognizes that an essential step toward improving veterans’ care is to listen to employee concerns and protect them from retaliation.”
VA WHISTLEBLOWER EXAMPLES
Dr. Richard Hill
Hill complained about a lack of clerical staff at his primary care unit, which he said led to significant errors in patient care and scheduling problems. Instead of fixing the problem, VA reprimanded Hill last May. He retired two months later. As part of the settlement, the VA agreed to expunge Hill’s record of any negative personnel actions.
Coleen Elmers – Nurse
Elmers filed a complaint last year with the VA’s Office of Inspector General about a fraudulently altered performance evaluation of one of her subordinates, which Elmers had refused to change. A supervisor later moved to fire Elmers for “lack of candor” and failure to follow instructions.
Mark Tello – Nurse Assistance
The VA also agreed to reverse a decision to fire Mark Tello, a nursing assistant at a VA hospital in Saginaw, Michigan, who reported improper staffing that he said could result in serious patient care lapses. The VA agreed to place Tello in a new job and award him undisclosed back pay.
Rachael Hogan – Nurse
The VA also agreed to find a new job for Rachael Hogan, a registered nurse at a VA hospital in Syracuse, New York, who disclosed to a superior a patient’s rape accusation against a VA employee. When the official delayed reporting the accusations to police, Hogan warned the manager about the risks of failing to file a timely report.
VA managers had threatened to fire Hogan. Under the settlement, the VA agreed to place her in a new job under a different supervisor. The Syracuse facility also will pay for whistleblower-protection training for managers at the site.
Have you heard any examples or stories that retaliation is still going on? Do you think Secretary McDonald will stop retaliation against veterans who were also whistleblowers?