VA IG demands whistleblower files

The Department of Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General has issued a subpoena to a government watchdog group, directing it to turn over information the organization has collected through a confidential tip-line created to gather information from VA whistleblowers.

The Department of Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General has issued a subpoena to a government watchdog group, directing it to turn over information the organization has collected through a confidential tip-line created to gather information from VA whistleblowers.

The group, the Project On Government Oversight, said it will not comply with the subpoena, which orders POGO to hand over all information it has collected related to abuses and mismanagement at VA medical facilities. POGO said it received the subpoena May 30.

According to a release from the organization, the IG "demands all records POGO has received from current or former VA employees, as well as any other individuals, including veterans. The subpoena asks for records related to 'wait times, access to care, and/or patient scheduling issues at the Phoenix, Arizona VA Healthcare System and any other VA medical facility.'"

POGO outlined its intention to refuse to turn over the information in a June 9 letter to VA Acting Inspector General Richard J. Griffin, citing First Amendment and whistleblower protections and listing other objections.

"The IG’s office has provided no basis to suggest that the information possessed by POGO as a result of its investigation of the VA is not already available to the IG, including through the VA IG 'hotline,'" POGO wrote. "Accordingly, the administrative subpoena is little more than an invasive fishing expedition."

"POGO is not taking this matter lightly and is not taking a stance to hinder the work of the VA IG," the letter clarified. "In fact, we support the IG’s efforts to investigate failures at the VA. As soon as we can, POGO is planning to issue an investigative report and assist the VA IG, absent identifying the sources of our reporting."

In the time since POGO and the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America launched the site May 15, "about 700 people have submitted tips or aired grievances," POGO said. About a quarter of the tips have come from current or former VA staffers, the group said.

See the letter at: www.pogo.org/our-work/letters/2014/va-inspector-general-issues-subpoena-for-pogo.html.

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