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Concerns Still Exist About Whistleblower Protections at the VA

Just months after multiple whistleblowers testified to say they still face harassment and retaliation in their work at the VA, some leaders in congress say not enough has changed with regard to the protection of those whistleblowers.

Representatives from the VA say the concerns from congressional leaders are unfounded, and that it has received positive response from the community of veterans it serves.

Background

This summer, the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee held a couple hearings regarding VA whistleblower protections after reports from department employees indicated significant issues with intimidation and retaliation in response to whistleblowers’ allegations.

One of these whistleblowers was Jeffery Dettbarn, who worked at the Iowa VA Medical Center as a radiologic technologist. He claimed that after submitting complaints of improper cancellations of medical exams, he was suspended by managers and received a pay cut. He attempted to submit complaints to the Office of Accountability and Whistleblower Protection (OAWP), but did not have any resolution.

Another whistleblower, Dr. Minu Aghevli, claims to have had clinical privileges revoked after reporting concerns about administrators manipulating information on patient wait lists.

According to members of the House VA Committee, the OAWP, just two years old, has not been effective enough at protecting whistleblowers, and there are still issues with retaliation and intimidation of whistleblowers in the VA.

The VA claims its department is working on staffing new management positions after an agency-wide shuffle, and that it will have new training in place for employees by the end of the year, which will include whistleblower protections and confidentiality training. Lawmakers, though, say this isn’t good enough, and that the VA hasn’t worked fast enough to make the necessary changes. Some lawmakers have accused the department of intentionally obstructing the process and thus failing to give the whistleblowers the protections they deserve.

For more information about the protections afforded to whistleblowers under federal law, contact an experienced attorney at Kardell Law Group.

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