Whistleblowers from Veterans Affairs medical facilities throughout the nation are banding together to keep pressure on the VA to fix the company, protect whistleblowers and enhance veteran patient care.
The group, “VA Truth Tellers,” has a Facebook page, an e-mail group and plans for several members to speak at a whistleblower panel in Washington next month. Their ranks include roughly 2 dozen present and previous VA workers from medical centers in 10 states that serve more than 600,000 veterans annually.
” I think that all people coming together will send out a message,” stated Germaine Clarno, a social employee at the Hines VA Medical Center near Chicago. “The message is, ‘VA, you’ve got to change.'”.
Individually, they have blown the whistle on controlled patient wait times and mishandled care of suicidal veterans in Phoenix; secret consultation waits list in Shreveport, La.; impropriety in Montgomery and Tuskegee, Ala.; and poor veteran care in Wilmington, Del
They reported veterans are undergoing unnecessary heart surgeries at the Hines VA healthcare facility and prescribed dangerous quantities of drugs in Tomah, Wis. In a lot of cases, the issues they exposed caused experienced damage as well as death.
Now, the whistleblowers want the public to understand the taxpayer-funded VA is still riddled with dysfunction, practically a year after VA Secretary Robert McDonald took control of the firm following the resignation of his predecessor amid the Phoenix wait-time scandal.
” You can put all this paint and wallpaper on it, but it’s the exact same,”
stated Shea Wilkes, a mental health social employee at the Shreveport VA who helped organize the whistleblowers’ group.
VA spokesman James Hutton stated that since McDonald took over last summer, 91 percent of the firm’s medical facilities have new leaders or leadership teams. He stated discipline associated to patient care or data control has been proposed for more than 130 employees across the nation.
” VA’s objective continues to be strengthening its culture of accountability and putting restored concentrate on employee-led, veteran-centric modification,”
a VA truth sheet Hutton forwarded states.
The whistleblowers state change isn’t really taking place fast enough. Members of the group, which includes physicians, nurses, social workers, and administrators, state issues they exposed are still ongoing, including lengthy and manipulated wait lists for experienced health care, mismanagement, short-staffing and poor and irresponsible care.
And they say there is little hope of discovering and fixing the list of problems, because even with brand-new leaders at VA medical centers throughout the nation, a number of the managers and managers who overlooked or failed to repair issues in the past are still in their jobs.
” Until the VA starts terminating the bad actors, everything else is just fluff around the edges and achieves nothing,”
stated Ryan Honl, who exposed the opiate issues in Tomah, Wis
And among the bad actors, they state, are supervisors who strike back versus whistleblowers like them, a practice that frightens others from stepping forward. VA managers have reassigned them to do-nothing tasks, launched examinations of them and took their computer systems, among other techniques.
Whistleblower Sheila Meuse, who retired from her job as assistant director of the Central Alabama VA Health Care System earlier this year because of retaliation, believes the VA is afflicted with “a huge disease process” that requires a various method than the one leadership is presently taking.
” It’s practically like if you’re diabetic or something, and you have an issue with your toe healing, all they’re doing is worrying about recovering their toe,” Meuse stated.
Hutton, the VA spokesperson, stated the firm instituted whistleblower security training for all managers and has adjusted performance procedures for senior executives to include veteran care and employee engagement and for medical center directors to consist of quality care.
He forwarded written testimony from a congressional hearing in April submitted on behalf of Meghan Flanz, director of the VA’s Office of Accountability Review.
” VA is totally committed to fixing deficiencies in its processes and programs, and to ensuring reasonable treatment for whistleblowers who bring those shortages to light,” the statement states.
The whistleblower group is also requiring an overhaul of the VA’s primary watchdog – the inspector general’s office – consisting of the replacement of interim Inspector General Richard Griffin and Dr. John Daigh, the assistant inspector general for healthcare inspections. The group medicare fraud whistle blower legal says under their leadership, the office has actually carried out low quality examinations and targeted whistleblowers who submitted ideas instead of the suggestions themselves.
” By assaulting individuals who produce the truth, you’re actively enabling it,”
stated Dr. Lisa Nee, a former Hines cardiologist who exposed the unnecessary heart procedures.
The whistleblowers say the office is too relaxing with VA authorities to provide independent oversight, and they kept in mind that in many cases it cannot launch the findings of healthcare probes, relying on the VA would fix the problems.
” Basically the watchdog just barks, it does not do anything else,” stated Dr. Katherine Mitchell, a former emergency room doctor and whistleblower at the Phoenix VA who now operates in the VA’s southwest regional office. “It doesn’t bite; it does not prevent practices. All it does is bark.”.
Catherine Gromek, spokesperson for the VA Office of Inspector General, said that is a fundamental misreading of the office’s obligation. Visit www.mahanyertl.com for more information.