Federal Employees News Digest
POGO: Retaliation continues at VA
- By FEND Staff
- Jul 08, 2019
Five years after the Department of Veterans Affairs wait-list scandal broke in the major media and Congress with the help of in-house whistleblowers, these brave feds still face the extreme likelihood of retaliation at the department, so reports the nonprofit Project on Government Oversight.
In the group’s recent testimony and analysis—entitled “Whistleblower Retaliation at the Department of Veterans Affairs”—whistleblowers continue to find and disclose serious problems in the agency, and to face retribution.
“Whistleblowers at the Department of Veterans Affairs put their careers on the line every time they speak truth to power to ensure the best care possible for those who put their lives on the line to defend our country,” Rebecca Jones, Policy Counsel at POGO, told Congress. “In that way, VA whistleblowers are heroes serving heroes.”
“Disclosures by VA whistleblowers save patients’ lives by bringing to light barriers to timely and effective medical care due to either negligence or intentional misconduct, exposing officials who have perpetuated a culture of abuse for decades, and freeing up taxpayer dollars that are being misused and that instead can and should go toward providing resources and care,” she said.
Jones testified on June 25 about the problem to the House Committee on Veterans Affairs, Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations.
The most important remedy needed? Jones said the department’s Office of Accountability and Whistleblower Protection needs to be given a greater degree of autonomy from the rest of the bureaucracy there—including giving the OAWP “its own office of legal counsel.”
“The first step toward improving the functionality of OAWP is ensuring that the office has the independence necessary to analyze and thoroughly investigate both whistleblower retaliation complaints and allegations of misconduct by senior officials,” she said. “While the best course of action would be to remove OAWP’s investigative functions from within the agency’s structure entirely, we understand that such a sweeping reform may be a longer-term goal.”
The OAWP has received more than 2,000 reports in just its first year of operation alone, POGO noted.