On April 13, 2015, the House subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations of the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs heard testimony on whistleblower retaliation within the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (VA). The hearing focused on the treatment of whistleblowers within the VA, particularly the types and levels of retaliation they experience when reporting problems.
Special Counsel Carolyn Lerner testified that “In several cases, the medical records of whistleblowers have been accessed and information in those records has apparently been used to attempt to discredit the whistleblowers.” Lerner explained that many VA officials who become whistleblowers are veterans themselves who are also seeking care at the VA. She said in some cases, VA officials try to retaliate by examining the medical records of these officials, and said this still happens — she called it an “ongoing concern.”
A recent press release from OSC states that in 2014 and 2015 so far, OSC has secured either full or partial relief for over 45 VA employees who have filed whistleblower retaliation complaints. It also revealed that OSC is currently examining about 110 pending claims of whistleblower retaliation at the VA involving patient health and safety, scheduling, and understaffing issues.
“Retaliation against whistleblowers is unacceptable. VA employees who bring potential risks to light should be rewarded not shunned,” said Special Counsel Carolyn Lerner. “The VA’s willingness to protect these employees after the fact is encouraging. In particular, the efforts of VA’s leadership have improved OSC’s ability to secure relief for whistleblowers. However, more work needs to be done at the facility level to prevent this type of retaliation from occurring in the first place.”
Watch the hearing: Hearing Addressing Continued Whistleblower Retaliation Within VA