VA Whistleblowers Testify About Retaliation

By Alexandra Olgin
Published: Monday, April 13, 2015 - 5:36pm
Updated: Monday, April 13, 2015 - 5:44pm
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(Photo by Stina Sieg - KJZZ News)
Carl T. Hayden VA Medical Center in Phoenix.

One year after whistleblowers at the Phoenix VA went public about of delays in patient care, the House Committee on Veterans affairs is inquiring into whistleblower retaliations. Three whistleblowers from different facilities around the country testified about how they were treated after coming forward with the accusations of misconduct.

Associate Director of the Greater Los Angeles VA Dr. Christian Head said shortly after he came forward, he was removed from his office and placed in a former storage unit.

“They are trying to send a message not only to me, they are trying to send a message to everyone there,” he said. “Look at Dr. Head. He thinks he’s great. He went and testified in front of Congress, they say they are going to protect him. But you know something, at my VA they listen to me and Congress can’t do a thing about it.”

All three of the employees that testified claimed the VA spent more time investigating them rather than looking into their complaints. Representative Kathleen Rice questioned Director of the VA’s office of Accountability Review Meghan Flanz. 

“Why is it easier for you to come to the determination that whistleblowers are wrong in a faster way than you can say that these retaliators are wrong?” she said. “Because the No. 1 way we know we are going to stop this is just hold one retaliator accountable. I don’t mean docking their pay, I mean firing them.”

“When we do fire an employee, we are required to show that the preponderance of the evidence supports the action," Flanz said.

The VA testified three of the employees who retaliated against whistleblowers have been fired. The Office of Special Counsel handles complaints of whistleblower retaliation. It said it has more complaints from the VA than any other agency. There are currently about 120 investigations of whistleblower retaliation. 

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