VA whistleblowers finally exonerated

posted at 5:31 pm on July 25, 2015 by Jazz Shaw

It’s a rare day when we have a story about the Veterans Administration which winds up focusing on some good news. No… before you get your hopes up, the agency has not been fixed. But there is at least one small sliver of justice coming down the pike which might begin to make the entire ordeal seem worth the battles involved. It seems that the people who blew the whistle on the agency’s corrupt, failed practices and were later punished for doing so are getting some measure of restitution for their trials. (From the WaPo)

These whistleblowers have now been exonerated by the office that investigates claims of retaliation against federal employees. The Office of Special Counsel announced this week that it has smoothed the way for the Department of Veterans Affairs to make amends to Thompson, Christensen and Honl with monetary settlements, reinstatements to their jobs and by purging their records of negative claims.

“Rather than silencing the messenger, supervisors can use disclosures as opportunities to address problems,” Special Counsel Carolyn Lerner said in a statement. “It’s an important sign of progress that the VA settled these cases and provided relief to the employees who suffered retaliation.”

The employees, who shared harrowing experiences with investigators of being ostracized, harassed and punished for reporting their concerns about mismanagement, have plenty of company. The special counsel’s office says it has helped more than 45 whistleblowers with claims of retaliation by VA in the last two years, by getting their jobs back and, in some cases, securing compensatory damages.

Most of the people involved are ones that we’ve discussed here in the past. Troy Thompson was the man who reported that the kitchen at the facility where he worked (and where food for wounded warriors was prepared) was infested with flies and pests. For his trouble he was reassigned to the janitorial staff. Ryan Honl was the guy who reported that vets were being overly medicated with prescription opiates and developing addiction problems. He was removed from duty and locked out of his office shortly afterward. And Joseph Christensen reported that his boss had been arrested for drunk driving and drug possession. He was simply fired.

According to this update, both Thompson and Christensen are back at their old positions (or on the way there) and receiving compensatory remuneration. Honl was not only returned to duty, but the agreement included removing negative information from his personnel file and an award of monetary damages.

We’d probably have known a lot more about the abuses going on at the VA much sooner if more people had been willing to speak up, but it’s understandable that they would be afraid to when they saw what happened to their colleagues. It’s easy to say that people need to do the right thing and take a stand, but when the system can hold your very livelihood in a vice and basically end your career and put you out on the streets, that’s an awfully big hammer to have hanging over your head. But if any good has come of this beyond better treatment for veterans, other employees might see the positive outcome for these whistleblowers and not be so afraid to raise the alarm when they see abuse taking place. It’s a rare case where the media is actually doing some good and the workers can at least have the hope that the public will be on their side, with some transparency assured in the proceedings.

Or at least we can hope so. It’s hard to slay a monster that size. Just look at the IRS and how little has changed there in the past few years.


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Comments

that it has smoothed the way for the Department of Veterans Affairs to make amends to Thompson, Christensen and Honl with monetary settlements,

Monetary settlement means WE have to pay for the criminal behavior of someone else with our tax money…I didn’t do this crime, you didn’t do this crime, yet the perpetrators STILL have their jobs and bonuses and retirement packages. Why isn’t the ‘monetary settlement” coming out of the perp’s pockets as in most criminal prosecutions?!?! Oh that’s right. The perps weren’t prosecuted. Never will be either.

patechinois on July 25, 2015 at 5:37 PM

I’m glad to hear that, but I wish it had included the always-absent firing of the people abusing their authority and office.

Recon5 on July 25, 2015 at 5:38 PM

No… before you get your hopes up, the agency has not been fixed.

It is still an utter disgrace. Do not worry though – McCain will fix – one of these decades – he loves veterans.

VorDaj on July 25, 2015 at 5:48 PM

OK, I am coming forward with a truth that has been denied, pushed to the bottom of the heap and punished. Obama SUCKS!

vnvet on July 25, 2015 at 5:48 PM

<blockquote“It’s an important sign of progress that the VA settled these cases and provided relief to the employees who suffered retaliation.”

The TRUE relief would entail FIRING those who retaliated.

GarandFan on July 25, 2015 at 5:58 PM

I agree with GarandFan. Those who retaliated were abusing their power to protect their own positions. They ought to be terminated forthwith.

Blaise on July 25, 2015 at 6:10 PM

I’m glad to hear that, but I wish it had included the always-absent firing of the people abusing their authority and office.

Recon5 on July 25, 2015 at 5:38 PM

Unfortunately, those who game the system or abuse authority are the heroes of this generation.

ROCnPhilly on July 25, 2015 at 6:19 PM

Is Kevin Johnson still in office?

Judge_Dredd on July 25, 2015 at 6:23 PM

Are the names of the jack-booted, government workers on record, so they can be ostracized, harassed and punished also? The names of the whistleblowers are out there, so why aren’t these government Stazi members names being published, so taxpayers being charged for their crimes can retaliate in like form?

AppraisHer on July 25, 2015 at 6:37 PM

Editor. Put your career in a vise not in a vice.

bobnox on July 25, 2015 at 6:38 PM

Editor. Put your career in a vise not in a vice.

bobnox on July 25, 2015 at 6:38 PM

How do know that their career isn’t in vice.

RickB on July 25, 2015 at 6:42 PM

Editor. Put your career in a vise not in a vice.

bobnox on July 25, 2015 at 6:38 PM

It is a vice they had their nuts put in a vise.

coldwarrior on July 25, 2015 at 6:45 PM

Not only will the top fifteen perpetrators not be punished, they’ll likely be rewarded with a promotion by President Killary to the IPAB death panel board in recognition of their killing efficiency …

ShainS on July 25, 2015 at 7:06 PM

It’s easy to say that people need to do the right thing and take a stand, but when the system can hold your very livelihood in a vice and basically end your career and put you out on the streets, that’s an awfully big hammer to have hanging over your head.

First of all, Jazz, it’s a VISE…stoopid homonyms…

Otherwise, spot on!

Newtie and the Beauty on July 25, 2015 at 8:20 PM

Monetary settlement means WE have to pay for the criminal behavior of someone else with our tax money…I didn’t do this crime, you didn’t do this crime, yet the perpetrators STILL have their jobs and bonuses and retirement packages. Why isn’t the ‘monetary settlement” coming out of the perp’s pockets as in most criminal prosecutions?!?! Oh that’s right. The perps weren’t prosecuted. Never will be either.

patechinois on July 25, 2015 at 5:37 PM

Exactly. Granted, at least it’s not a step backwards, but it isn’t forwards either. It’s a giant step sideways.

How about those MMS inspectors whose negligence resulted in the Deepwater Horizon disaster? Any of them ever get charged with anything? Any of them ever get fired? Any of them ever lose so much as a single day’s pay?

Not punishing the whistleblowers is good, although in reality it’s too late for that. You can make restitution, but you can’t make it unhappen.

We’d probably have known a lot more about the abuses going on at the VA much sooner if more people had been willing to speak up, but it’s understandable that they would be afraid to when they saw what happened to their colleagues. It’s easy to say that people need to do the right thing and take a stand, but when the system can hold your very livelihood in a vice and basically end your career and put you out on the streets, that’s an awfully big hammer to have hanging over your head.

True. And just as much to the point, they’re still seeing what is not happening to the perpetrators.

Negligence and criminality carries no penalty. Integrity carries no benefit. And that hasn’t changed a bit.

GrumpyOldFart on July 25, 2015 at 8:22 PM

Yeah, reprisal is illegal. Doesn’t always stop people from doing it, though.

Paperclips on July 25, 2015 at 10:10 PM

If the former whistleblowers were put in charge, including authority to refer people for prosecution, that I’d call progress.

GrumpyOldFart on July 25, 2015 at 10:16 PM

Yeah I’m quite confident that their fellow VA employees will be just jumping at the chance of following in their brave, fellow employees’ footsteps into Government career oblivion.

Step right up!

Mike from NC on July 25, 2015 at 11:03 PM

Or at least we can hope so. It’s hard to slay a monster that size. Just look at the IRS and how little has changed there in the past few years.

That’s assuming anyone at the IRS wants to change. Their corruption serves the goals of the Obama administration: keeping conservatives out of power.

And that makes both Democrats and RINOs happy.

There Goes the Neighborhood on July 26, 2015 at 10:47 AM

The special counsel’s office says it has helped more than 45 whistleblowers with claims of retaliation by VA in the last two years, by getting their jobs back and, in some cases, securing compensatory damages.

Until they start firing the officials whom retaliate, the taxpayers are simply being fleeced by this criminal behavior.

Russ in OR on July 26, 2015 at 12:44 PM

The VA thuggery against whistleblowers is all about “look at the shiny object” while union thuggery that is at the source of the thuggery goes on — along with recent Congressional support for status quo VA union operations.

The VA unions are perhaps the worst in the nation when it comes to doing union work that doesn’t help the VA provide better care, rather it goes towards union politics and lobbying. The VA unions, like many, if not most, (federal and state) public unions, get taxpayers to directly support union operations.

Many union workers are being paid by the taxpayers to do little to no work for the VA and veterans health. They stand in the way of getting VA reforms — they are just doing union politics with taxpayer money in a thinly veiled money laundering scheme.

The whistleblowers got scorched for touching the turd rail of union welfare. This thuggery is fully supported by Ocrat politicians, but recent votes in Congress to improve the VA healthcare showed that there’s around 50 GOP RINOsaurs who are also afraid of union thuggery and the turd rail of public unions. These RINOsaurs voted to down a bill that would have curtailed the practice of taxpayers directly paying for unions to work on union politics, rather than asking union members to do this on their own with their own dues. Without this check and balance of union membership, unions run amuck when it comes to politicking on the taxpayer dollars.

drfredc on July 26, 2015 at 1:59 PM

Funny how they always have enough money to compensate the wronged whistle-blowers, but never enough to fix the damn system.

Or, as the say in the car-repair business:
Never enough time to fix it correctly, always enough time to fix it again.

Another Drew on July 27, 2015 at 3:04 AM