Originally published June 10 2014
Government retaliates against 37 VA hospital whistleblowers who showed the courage to tell the truth
by J. D. Heyes
(NaturalNews) There are federal laws that are supposed to protect whistleblowers, as part of the government's effort to ensure that its various departments and agencies operate ethically and in the best interests of the people.
Indeed, when President Obama was running for his first term in 2007-08, part of his "hope and change" platform's "Ethics Agenda" was protection of whistleblowers:
Often the best source of information about waste, fraud, and abuse in government is an existing government employee committed to public integrity and willing to speak out. Such acts of courage and patriotism, which can sometimes save lives and often save taxpayer dollars, should be encouraged rather than stifled. We need to empower federal employees as watchdogs of wrongdoing and partners in performance. Barack Obama will strengthen whistleblower laws to protect federal workers who expose waste, fraud, and abuse of authority in government. Obama will ensure that federal agencies expedite the process for reviewing whistleblower claims and whistleblowers have full access to courts and due process.
Then again, Obama also promised no corporate influence, transparent government and no writing of legislation behind closed doors (like Obamacare).
So it should not be surprising to learn that dozens of whistleblowers who have come forward to report abysmal practices in the treatment of our nation's military veterans by the Veterans Administration (VA) are now claiming that they have been retaliated against for speaking out.
'Where there's smoke, there's usually fire'
As reported by Fox News:
Dozens of Veterans Affairs workers who have come forward with stories of mismanagement and patient abuse say they have faced retaliation within the scandal-scarred agency, according to federal investigators.
One case involves a VA employee with a spotless record and over two decades of employment who has been suspended after reporting that patients had been inappropriately restrained.
That's just one of 37 separate complaints that have now been filed with the U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC). In another, an employee claimed to have been demoted following the employee's disclosure of alleged mishandling of patient care funds. The employee was temporarily reassigned, and an investigation is currently underway, according to OSC officials.
The complaints involving VA medical facilities in 19 states appear to demonstrate a culture that in fact discourages whistleblowing, according to OSC officials looking into the claims.
"Receiving candid information about harmful practices from employees will be critical to the VA's efforts to identify problems and find solutions," Special Counsel Carolyn Lerner said in a statement Thursday. "However, employees will not come forward if they fear retaliation."
The OSC is an independent prosecutorial and investigative agency that oversees treatment of federal employees and job applicants. The agency focuses primarily on the enforcement of the Whistleblower Protection Act.
Fox News reported that investigation of the claims of retribution does not include a separate OSC investigation of 49 employees related to waiting lists and other issues at some 152 hospitals and an additional 1,700 VA sites around the country. Some of those facilities have been accused of cooking their books in order to hide the fact that some VA patients died while languishing on waiting lists to receive care.
'We're not looking to make some quick media hit'
Joe Newman, spokesman of the Project on Government Oversight, an activist group that launched its own VA-related whistleblower website last month, told the news agency that it's not surprising that entrenched VA bureaucrats are lowering the boom on employees who come forward in an attempt to help reform the system.
"That fear is pervasive," Newman told FoxNews.com, adding that most sources do not wish to be identified. "But when there's this much smoke, there's often fire."
At last count, more than 640 submissions had been received at the website, VAOversight.org, since May 15, according to Newman. The majority came from veterans themselves and their relatives. About 20 percent of those were from current and former VA employees who had legitimate complaints.
"So they can't all be classified as whistle-blower submissions, but we're in the process of investigating some of those claims," said Newman. "We're not looking to make quick media hits. Our main goal is to analyze the systemic problems and find what solutions we can come up with."
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