Whistleblowers from Department of Veteran’s Affairs hospitals offered dramatic testimony Tuesday about how they had been punished after raising quality-of-care issues. They also say the VA’s Office of Accountability and Whistleblower Protection offers little protection from retribution.
The oversight subcommittee of the House Veterans Affairs committee heard from both whistleblowers and advocates on what was described as a “culture problem” within the VA.
Minu Aghevli, who runs the opioid treatment program for the VA’s Maryland Health Care System, raised concerns about the handling of waiting list statistics about five years ago. Since then, Aghevli told the committee, she has been the subject of “constant harassment, scrutinizing and frivolous investigations.”
The retaliation and threats have continued, said Aghevli, who noted that she learned the day before the hearing that she was being “terminated” from her job.
Katherine Mitchell, MD, won a “public servant of the year” award from the VA after she disclosed understaffing and inadequate triage training at the Phoenix VA medical center’s emergency room. That did not protect her from retaliation, which she said has been “extreme and ongoing.”
Still, Mitchell said she had no choice: There is “no other way to stop patients dying…Until leadership improves, employees will act as a safety-net.”