VA Whistleblower Retaliation—McCaskill Pushes for Swift Action

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

JUNE 20, 2014

     

Contact: Sarah Feldman – 202-228-6263 

VA Whistleblower Retaliation—McCaskill Pushes for Swift Action

Senator demands action, answers from Special Counsel on retaliation complaints at the Veterans Administration

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill, Chairman of the Subcommittee on Financial & Contracting Oversight, today called for swift action and requested additional information from the Office of Special Counsel (OSC) on its investigation of whistleblower retaliation by Veterans Affairs employees. OSC is currently investigating 37 cases of whistleblower retaliation at the VA.

“As you know, the federal government relies on whistleblowers to report government waste, fraud, abuse, and the mismanagement of taxpayer dollars,” wrote McCaskill, a longtime advocate for stronger whistleblower protections. “Their protection is not only mandated by law but also necessary to ensure the successful oversight of government affairs.  I therefore request that you take prompt action in investigating and adjudicating these cases and that you keep me apprised of any developments that might arise.”

McCaskill requested the information from OSC to determine the scope of the retaliation problem and protect future whistleblowers.

McCaskill also asked OSC to identify the number of whistleblower retaliation complaints brought to OSC by VA employees related to the VA waiting list issues, the number of complaints by worksite location, the number of managerial employees implicated by multiple complainants, the number of SES employees accused, the number of complainants who asked the VA Inspector General to investigate alleged retaliation, and the number of claims that have been resolved and what disciplinary or administrative actions were taken.

Earlier this week, McCaskill used a Senate Homeland Security Committee hearing to call for expanded whistleblower protections for intelligence contractors—to better protect those who blow the whistle on waste, fraud and abuse in the intelligence community. She also recently introduced bipartisan legislation to bolster the independence of the National Security Agency’s Inspector General—in part by requiring the office to conduct annual reviews of whistleblower protections for agency employees and contractors, and provide recommendations to improve those mechanisms.

McCaskill’s letter to the Office of Special Counsel appears below:

June 19, 2014

The Honorable Carolyn Lerner

Special Counsel

U.S. Office of Special Counsel

1730 M Street, N.W., Suite 218

Washington, D.C. 20036-4505

Dear Ms. Lerner:

I understand that OSC is currently investigating at least 37 cases of whistleblower retaliation by VA employees who allege that they were reprised against for reporting lengthy waiting times, abusive scheduling practices, and substandard patient care.   As you know, the federal government relies on whistleblowers to report government waste, fraud, abuse, and the mismanagement of taxpayer dollars.  Their protection is not only mandated by law but also necessary to ensure the successful oversight of government affairs.  I therefore request that you take prompt action in investigating and adjudicating these cases, including working with the VA to provide interim relief, and that you keep me apprised of any developments that might arise.

 In addition, to assist the Subcommittee in its oversight of the VA, I request that you provide the following information: 

  1. The total number of whistleblower retaliation complaints brought to OSC by VA employees related to lengthy waiting times, abusive scheduling practices, or practices which may have risked the health of patients;
  2. A breakdown of the number of complaints by worksite location;
  3. The number of managerial employees who are implicated by multiple complainants;
  4. The number of SES employees that are accused of whistleblower retaliation;
  5. The number of complaints where the wrongdoing reported by the complainant has been confirmed, and the actions taken with respect to the individual(s) involved in the wrongdoing;
  6. The number of complaints of retaliation that have been resolved and the actions taken with respect to the complainant and the employee against whom retaliation was alleged; and
  7. The number of complainants who have disclosed to OSC that the complainant had asked the VA Office of Inspector General to investigate either the reported wrongdoing or the alleged retaliation prior to making an official complaint to OSC. 

I request that you provide the information that you are able to share at this time in a briefing for Subcommittee staff as soon as possible, but no later than Thursday, July 3, 2014.  I also request that you update this information as you are able on a rolling basis going forward. 

Click HERE to read highlights of McCaskill’s fight for stronger accountability in Washington.

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