NYT: VA went after whistleblowers in a big way before wait-list scandal exploded

posted at 12:41 pm on June 16, 2014 by Ed Morrissey

The VA has retaliated against whistleblowers for years, reports the New York Times today, keeping the lid on a corrupt environment through fear and attacks on credibility.  Despite whistleblower protections and a public commitment to transparency from the Obama administration, VA management intimidated employees into silence and punished others who tried to tough it out, including firing them from their jobs. Now that the ugly secret of rampant fraud and abuse have become public, current and former employees are speaking on the record to the culture of corruption and intimidation endured throughout the agency.

Note the timing suggested by the NYT, though:

Staff members at dozens of Department of Veterans Affairs hospitals across the country have objected for years to falsified patient appointment schedules and other improper practices, only to be rebuffed, disciplined or even fired after speaking up, according to interviews with current and former staff members and internal documents. …

In interviews with The New York Times, a half-dozen current and former staff members — four doctors, a nurse and an office manager in Delaware, Pennsylvania and Alaska — said they faced retaliation for reporting systemic problems. Their accounts, some corroborated by internal documents, portray a culture of silence and intimidation within the department and echo experiences detailed by other V.A. personnel in court filings, government investigations and congressional testimony, much of it largely unnoticed until now.

The department has a history of retaliating against whistle-blowers, which Sloan D. Gibson, the acting V.A. secretary, acknowledged this month at a news conference in San Antonio. “I understand that we’ve got a cultural issue there, and we’re going to deal with that cultural issue,” said Mr. Gibson, who replaced Eric K. Shinseki after Mr. Shinseki resigned over the scandal last month. Punishing whistle-blowers is “absolutely unacceptable,” Mr. Gibson said.

The federal Office of Special Counsel, which investigates whistle-blower complaints, is examining 37 claims of retaliation by V.A. employees in 19 states, and recently persuaded the V.A. to drop the disciplining of three staff members who had spoken out. Together with reports to other watchdog agencies and the Times interviews, the accounts by V.A. whistle-blowers cover several dozen hospitals, with complaints dating back seven years or longer.

“Seven years or longer” would drop the whole mess into the Bush administration. Of course, the problem with this argument is that George Bush stopped being President five and a half years ago, and even then the problems at the VA were so obvious that they became a campaign issue in 2007-8. Barack Obama pledged the “most transparent administration ever” during his primary and general-election campaigns and attacked the Bush administration’s handling of the VA (as did John McCain, the Republican nominee). The Obama administration received warnings as far back as the 2008-9 post-election transition that wait times were being manipulated to hide poor response, and then warned repeatedly after that to look into the issue, including one internal memo in 2010.

What did Obama do to fulfill his campaign pledge? He demanded more resources, which Congress supplied — increasing the VA budget more on a percentage basis than any other Cabinet agency (78%), with an extra $235 billion over and above the FY2008 budget baseline. Obama also insisted that Eric Shinseki was the man to put discipline into the VA’s bureaucracy. And after that, Obama washed his hands of the VA, rarely meeting with Shinseki on his own; the last such meeting before the scandal broke was in July 2012.

The problem at the VA today isn’t what happened “seven or more years ago.” It’s that the current administration had five and a half years to fix it, got an avalanche of spending with which to do so, got the people it wanted in key executive positions, and yet did nothing to fix the problems facing our nation’s veterans nor the honest people who wanted real change in their work environments on behalf of their captive consumers. It’s yet another reminder that we can’t trust the current administration to make a single-payer system any more responsive to internal or external customers, and that the only way to force changes in the VA is to open the system up to real choice for its consumers based on their own volition, rather than the same corrupt metrics that just got exposed as a systemic — and deadly — fraud.

But now, of course, the VA is focused like a laser on their problems. Right? Er … no:

Priorities, priorities. That’s the point of Remy’s latest video, too, presented by our friends at Reason:

Tell ‘em, man … wait, what?


Related Posts:

Breaking on Hot Air

Blowback

Note from Hot Air management: This section is for comments from Hot Air's community of registered readers. Please don't assume that Hot Air management agrees with or otherwise endorses any particular comment just because we let it stand. A reminder: Anyone who fails to comply with our terms of use may lose their posting privilege.

Trackbacks/Pings

Trackback URL

Comments

If only Veterans were Illegals running across the southern border by the tens of thousands.

THEN the Vets would be loaded up with Benefits, maybe get a house, car, first job, schooling, etc.

VIVA Veteran Mexicano.

Better yet…….what if you’re a MEXICAN VETERAN fleeing across the border with your 5 children?

#GOLDEN
#MEDIACOVERAGEPLUS

PappyD61 on June 16, 2014 at 12:44 PM

Just a glimpse of what Obamacare will eventually be like.

darwin on June 16, 2014 at 12:45 PM

It’s that the current administration had five and a half years to fix it, got an avalanche of spending with which to do so, got the people it wanted in key executive positions, and yet did nothing to fix the problems facing our nation’s veterans nor the honest people who wanted real change in their work environments on behalf of their captive consumers.

preach it Brother Ed

THIS

cmsinaz on June 16, 2014 at 12:46 PM

So Obama DIDN’T learn about this from the TV?

portlandon on June 16, 2014 at 12:46 PM

“War on Vets

Sven on June 16, 2014 at 12:48 PM

“Yeah but….Big Whitey burned down a church in Mississippi 139 years ago!”

-libfree

Bishop on June 16, 2014 at 12:48 PM

The District of Columbia needs an INVASION and a Regime Change.

Something tells me tat this would be the only proposed military invasion by American troops that Juan McCain would oppose.

ConstantineXI on June 16, 2014 at 12:48 PM

“War on Vets”

Sven on June 16, 2014 at 12:50 PM

I think the whistleblower retaliation problem exists in all government organizations to some extent. We know it does in the ATF.

butch on June 16, 2014 at 12:50 PM

If the people cannot trust their government to do the job for which it exists – to protect them and to promote their common welfare – all else is lost.

Barack Obama

I hope what is lost is the next two elections for Dems.

Drained Brain on June 16, 2014 at 12:55 PM

Voters won’t care about this, and nothing will be done about it.

The GOP will be silent.

faraway on June 16, 2014 at 12:58 PM

Simple fix, allow the individuals who receive VA care the ability to access the TRICARE system…. it aint perfect but it’s a MUCH BETTER system than the VA.

Von Kleist on June 16, 2014 at 12:59 PM

the accounts by V.A. whistle-blowers cover several dozen hospitals, with complaints dating back seven years or longer.

So there have been no complaints in the last 7 years? If there have been more recent complaints I expect to see a correction with a footnote explaining why it was made.

forest on June 16, 2014 at 12:59 PM

Despite whistleblower protections

It’s almost as if federal bureaucrats don’t believe the law applies to them.

“Seven years or longer” would drop the whole mess into the Bush administration. Of course, the problem with this argument is that George Bush stopped being President five and a half years ago, and even then the problems at the VA were so obvious that they became a campaign issue in 2007-8.

I won’t blame the mess on W or Dear Liar. It’s that the federal bureaucracy has become a feral bureaucracy, wild, and unaccountable to anyone. Dear Liar knew about it, campaigned on it, but actually supports it.

rbj on June 16, 2014 at 1:00 PM

As a veteran, the only use I have for the VA is to exempt me from Obamacrap. I’ll never go to a VA hospital, but I’ll use my eligibility to keep from paying the penalty for choosing my own healthcare plan.

Wino on June 16, 2014 at 1:02 PM

So Obama DIDN’T learn about this from the TV?

portlandon on June 16, 2014 at 12:46 PM

Hey, at least Obama admits to hearing about things eventually. Hillary can’t even recall anything that she’s intimately familiar with.

Fenris on June 16, 2014 at 1:07 PM

Take a look at the cartoon on the main page (from just above the nose to just below the ears).

Pretty much describes Obama to a T.

Or am I reading too much into it?

pain train on June 16, 2014 at 1:10 PM

OH MY GOD!!

Obama is going to be madder than hornets nest when he reads about this!

jukin3 on June 16, 2014 at 1:14 PM

Who set up the bonus program for the VA…? And why should government employees get bonuses..?

d1carter on June 16, 2014 at 1:16 PM

As soon as Bammy puts down that red pen he’s using to draw lines on the map of Iraq, he’s going to be Mad As Hell™ when he learns about this practice from the TV news.

It’s obviously another Bush scandal, a fact that doesn’t merit any more debate than whether the moon is made of green cheese.

Toocon on June 16, 2014 at 1:16 PM

It’s yet another reminder that we can’t trust the current administration to make a single-payer system any more responsive to internal or external customers, and that the only way to force changes in the VA is to open the system up to real choice for its consumers based on their own volition, rather than the same corrupt metrics that just got exposed as a systemic — and deadly — fraud.

Passing legislation to disband/de-certify/abolish Federal employee unions would be a nice start. Get some heads rolling at ALL levels of the Federal Gubmint–starting with zero’s and working down in ALL agencies.

Newtie and the Beauty on June 16, 2014 at 1:29 PM

Well, at least we can sleep well tonight knowing that Congress and the President have the best health care in the world, totally paid for by the taxpayers.

Veterans? Not so much.

RoadRunner on June 16, 2014 at 1:31 PM

Who set up the bonus program for the VA…? And why should government employees get bonuses..?

d1carter on June 16, 2014 at 1:16 PM

Well, because if we DIDN’T offer bonuses, we wouldn’t be able to attract the brightest and most qualified people to work in those positions!!!

Hey, I crack myself up…

climbnjump on June 16, 2014 at 1:32 PM

pain train on June 16, 2014 at 1:10 PM

Well, we have always said he was a big d!ck…..

Barred on June 16, 2014 at 1:43 PM

VA emails will disappear in 3..2..1..

Kissmygrits on June 16, 2014 at 2:00 PM

Hey, I crack myself up…

climbnjump on June 16, 2014 at 1:32 PM

LOL

d1carter on June 16, 2014 at 2:30 PM

Can’t believe Choomie hasn’t heard about this on the news yet?

Didn’t Reggie Love tell him?

formwiz on June 16, 2014 at 3:45 PM

But the left loves whistle blowers especially when they show corruption against big private corporations…federal gugmint…not so much

jaywemm on June 16, 2014 at 8:27 PM

Private Hospital: Bonuses for excellent care and getting a the hospital a high ranking because of it.

VA Hospital: Bonuses for NOT using the budget to provide care and ending up not spending all of it.

What could go wrong?

PastorJon on June 17, 2014 at 8:29 AM

Priorities, priorities. That’s the point of Remy’s latest video, too, presented by our friends at Reason:

Well, that explains why HA is going down the tubes so fast. The leftwing idiots at Reason are your like minded friends. I put Reasons emails to me in my spam file last week. Maybe HA is next to get deleted.

earlgrey on June 17, 2014 at 9:53 AM

DON’T TEASE US!!!! If you put a partial cartoon in the header at least put a link to it in the body of the article! Sheesh!!

E9RET on June 17, 2014 at 11:38 AM