Did the White House leak whistleblower identities during its investigation of abuses at the VA? Last night, one such whistleblower testified to Congress about what happened after he sent information to White House deputy chief of staff Rob Nabors, and it wasn’t pretty. Scott Davis got challenged by his manager, had his work record altered, and got kicked out of his assignment and eventually placed on involuntary leave — and he’s not alone in suffering retaliation (via Daniel Halper):
“The harassment I’ve experienced at the HEC from top levels of management include: my whistleblower complaint to White House deputy chief of staff Rob Nabors was leaked to my manager … who stated in writing that she was contacting me … My employment records were illegally altered … I was illegally placed on a permanent work detail … I was placed on involuntary administrative leave, curiously, at the same time … Unfortunately, my experience is not unique at VA. Darren and Eileen Owens who work at the Atlanta VA medical center have experienced the same retaliation for reporting medical errors and patient neglect as well as misconduct by senior VA police officials.
“Our local 518 union president … is routinely harassed as a direct consequence of assisting me and other disabled federal employees with retaliatory action by members of management.”
How exactly did Davis’ name get from Nabors’ office to his manager? Congress had better take a close look at that leak, because it strongly suggests that the White House may have interfered with the investigation rather than tried to solve the problems at the VA. That could be a case of incompetence, or it could be something else entirely — but either way, Congress needs to hold the White House accountable for it, even if that only means public exposure for now.
ABC calls whistleblower retaliation the “VA’s newest scandal,” and the cases are rising after the exposure of wait-list fraud two months ago:
The Veterans Affairs scandal is taking a new turn as a special counsel is receiving a growing number of complaints from employees that the agency retaliated against them for attempting to expose problems.
Carolyn Lerner, special counsel with the U.S. Office of Special Counsel, told the House Veterans Affairs Committee Tuesday night that her office is investigating 67 cases of alleged retaliation against whistleblowers at the VA.
“The number increases daily,” Lerner said, adding that since June 1, her office has received 25 new complaints of retaliations from employees claiming they were whistleblowers.
Scott Davis wasn’t alone among whistleblowers who suffered retaliation at the hearing, either:
Among the other witnesses at the hearing was Christian Head, a physician and quality-assurance official for the VA’s Los Angeles health system, who said one of his bosses used an embarrassing slideshow presentation to punish him for aiding an investigation of her alleged time-card abuses. He said the supervisor is still serving in the same capacity for the VA, even though an inspector general recommended that she be removed.
Head held up a copy of one slide that his supervisor showed at the event. It contained a picture of him on his phone, and it said: “If all else fails, he reports you to the inspector general at the VA.”
“In front of 300 individuals, I was labeled a rat,” the physician said. “I was labeled the person who ratted out this person.”
Another offered a warning to doctors — don’t fill out an employment application at the VA:
Katherine Mitchell, who works at the Phoenix VA, told the committee that the agency has intimidated any employee who raises information that could be detrimental to the agency, discouraging new doctors from considering the VA for employment. “Just because someone has an MD doesn’t mean they have ethics,” Mitchell said. “I wouldn’t recommend that people get a job at the VA as physician until there are changes.”
The newest scandal may be retaliation, but it’s now looking like the White House isn’t just a passive (and incompetent) player in the scandal.