One of the major complaints leveled at Veterans Administration (VA) officials has been their retaliation against military hospital staff who identify problems within their facilities. But according to the VA's acting chief on Friday, those involved in intimidation or retaliation against whistleblowers will face serious disciplinary action.
Acting Veterans Affairs Secretary Sloan Gibson said in a press statement that federal investigators are probing complaints by at least 35 employees who formally alleged they were victims of workplace retaliation by VA supervisory personnel.
Although President Barack Obama is pleading ignorance of the problems at the Veteran's Administration, He and his minions received reports five years ago that VA hospitals and clinics were reporting fraudulent waiting times and they "buried" scheduling failures that prevented military veterans needed health care, according to May 18 Washington Times report.
According to Jim McElhatton at the Times, "Veterans Affairs officials warned the Obama-Biden transition team in the weeks after the 2008 presidential election that the department shouldn’t trust the wait times that its facilities were reporting."
During Gibson's press conference on Friday following his walk-through at a military medical center in San Antonio, Texas, the VA chief asserted his office will uphold federal laws protecting whistleblowers from harassment or retaliation.
But some observers have a "wait-and-see" attitude towards Secretary Gibson. Political strategist Mike Baker, for example, said that intimidation of workers at government agencies is widespread in President Barack Obama's administration and something he believes is rampant within the White House and the cabinet-level agencies.
Baker points to a whistleblower at another agency, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. An ATF special agent named John Dodson, a veteran law-enforcement officer, was the victim of an Obama administration smear campaign when he spoke out about the scandalous Operation Fast and Furious.
According to an Examiner news story, the smear campaign involved the leaking of confidential information about him by then Department of Justice Director of Public Affairs Tracy Schmaler to Fortune Magazine reporter Katherine Eban.
Dodson accuses the DOJ's Schmaler of providing his confidential personnel file to Eban for a Fortune Magazine article appearing in the June 2012 issue that defends the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF). The article was condemned by the House Oversight Committee and the committee chairman publicly demanded a retraction.
But Gibson said that employees in any organization must be unencumbered if they wish to speak out about wrongdoing and Gibson warned that he will punish anyone in the VA who creates a hostile work environment that punishes those workers. "I think that is wrong. It is absolutely unacceptable." Gibson said.
On the day before his San Antonio visit, during his walk-through at the disgraced Phoenix, Ariz., VA facility on Thursday, Gibson reported that he became aware of another 18 veterans -- who had their names blocked from an official electronic VA appointment list -- died. He said that he intends to have the VA's inspector general to see if there is any evidence that veterans' deaths are connected to long wait times. Gibson said that if the IG probe reveals patients who indeed died through VA mismanagement, his office will reach out to the families of deceased veterans.
"Secretary Gibson did not disclose if there are any plans for a Rose Garden memorial with the family members of the deceased veterans whose names are on the phony VA waiting lists," said Baker.