Video: VA whistleblower claims supervisors forced her to keep secret wait list

More whistleblowers are coming forward from the VA, but this woman from North Carolina gives a special insight into the way that wait-list fraud propagated within the system. Paulene DeWenter makes clear that the use of secret wait lists was no spontaneously-occurring method for front-line workers to deal with overstressed resources, but a deliberate strategy employed by VA management. DeWenter tells WITN that her boss told her to use the secret wait list method, or else she would buy DeWenter a bus pass — one way out of town:

DeWenter blew the whistle after one of the patients on her list died. The daughter of the veteran concurs, saying that the catalyst for DeWenter’s decision came after a confrontation between the two of them over her father’s lack of care in the two months preceding his death. DeWenter tells WITN that management at her facility has changed or deleted her notes on patient care, but she’s doing her best to make sure the unnecessary deaths from maintaining secret wait lists don’t get covered up again.

In New York, the VA doesn’t give out one-way bus passes, but they’re not much happier with whistleblowers. A nurse with 28 years on the job found herself in a cubicle facing suspension after she tried to report abuse, fraud, and stolen drugs:

A Veterans Affairs nurse who spent 28 years at the embattled agency’s facility in Albany, N.Y., says when she came forward to report abuse including stolen drugs and mistreatment of patients, her supervisors turned on her instead of trying to fix things.

Nursing manager Val Riviello, 55, was considered an outstanding employee at the Albany Stratton VA Medical Center until last November, when she reported that doctors had restrained a patient for seven hours in violation of VA rules. Now she has been banished to an office cubicle, stripped of her nursing duties and supervisory role and faces a 30-day suspension without pay.

Riviello told Wednesday that she reported her claim of whistle-blower reprisal to the U.S. Office of Special Counsel and the VA Inspector General, and divulged other disturbing practices she had seen over the years. She told authorities officials at the facility later restrained the same patient for 49 hours during a holiday weekend last February, in a gross violation of procedures.

“That’s really kind of barbaric,” Riviello said. She said restraints are for patients who are a threat to themselves and others and are supposed to come off when that is no longer the case.

Riviello also reported the theft of 5,000 vials of morphine from a locked drawer. She said the vials were refilled with saline solution, which was given to veterans in hospice care and in dire need of pain management. Riviello said the thief was a nurse who just got caught.

Speaking of editing records, the Montgomery, Alabama VA has found a way to look more efficient. They just copy and paste information into patient files to make it look like the doctor has provided care to the patient:

I’m sure that the real solution is to give the VA more money while doing absolutely nothing to change its structure or culture. Yeah … that’ll work.