Hmmm: Office of Special Counsel accuses VA Inspector General of targeting whistleblowers

The scandal at the Veterans Administration may go deeper than first thought. According to a scathing letter from the US Office of Special Counsel, which has authority to probe whistleblower abuse within the executive branch, the VA’s Office of Inspectors General ignored whistleblowers and their complaints, shrugging off evidence of fraud and manipulation of wait time statistics. According to OSC,the IG even attempted to “discredit the whistleblowers by focusing on the word ‘secret,'” rather than try to correct the problems their investigation uncovered:

A top government watchdog on Thursday accused the central agency tasked with holding Veterans Affairs accountable of dropping the ball — by failing to properly investigate whistleblower claims of secret wait lists at Shreveport, La., and Chicago hospitals where thousands of veterans languished up to 15 months without care.

Further, Special Counsel Carolyn Lerner said the VA’s Office of Inspector General even tried to “discredit the whistleblowers” who brought the allegations by focusing on a narrow aspect of the case.

“The OIG investigations that the VA submitted … are incomplete. They do not respond to the issues that the whistleblowers raised,” Lerner wrote to President Obama.

On top of that, Lerner reported to President Obama and to Congress, the VA OIG did not cooperate with her probe of the matter. “Finally,” Lerner wrote at the end of a litany of failures, “OIG also denied OSC’s request to review a copy of the complete investigation reports, undermining our ability to properly assess the VA’s resolution of these issues.” Nevertheless, Lerner expresses optimism about the current VA leadership, writing that Deputy VA Secretary Sloan Gibson has “agreed to review the OIG investigations and OSC’s analyses” to work on a plan to fix the two regional VA operations.

The whistleblowers themselves called Lerner’s letter a “vindication” of their complaints:

Whistleblowers who originally brought the allegations – and themselves faced a criminal investigation by IG officials after coming forward — told the OSC findings are “vindication” for them.

“I’m glad the OSC has seen what is the obvious – that the inspector general did not do a thorough investigation,” said Germaine Clarno, one of the whistleblowers.

Will anything change? The Department of Defense may be ready to expand a pilot program that merges the VA with the DoD’s health-care system used for active-duty military. Fox reports that the pilot program in Chicago — one of the two locations cited by Lerner — has eliminated the backlog of veterans waiting for care, and that the efficiencies from combining resources could apply nationwide:

This might make sense in areas where the DoD facilities get underused, but that may not be the case in every community that requires service. Why not provide both options to veterans as well as portable health insurance that allows them to seek routine care from a wider range of providers? As long as bureaucrats manipulate data to cover up poor performance, and as long as those who are supposed to watch over them attack those trying to fix the problem, it makes little sense to keep America’s veterans locked into a single-payer system with almost no accountability.

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