VA whistleblower protection chief hears complaints, vows change

From fanfare to condemnation to … what exactly?

The federal government has been awash in complaints concerning substandard medical care delivered in VA hospitals in recent years. Agency-directed condemnation has also spotlighted multiple claims by whistleblowers coming forward with fraud allegations that they have been retaliated against rather than listened to.

We noted in a recent Hilder Law blog post the government’s response to the agency’s cited shortcomings. Our July 2 entry reported that advocacy groups “were enthralled late last year when President Trump took pen to paper,” formally enacting the VA Office of Accountability and Whistleblower Protection.

They have subsequently been disappointed for myriad reasons we chronicle in the above post entry. Chief among them are charges that the office has done little if anything to protect whistleblowers from reprisals and that the VA shockingly permits wrongdoers to participate in probes investigating whistleblowers’ claims.

Usher in Tamara Bonzanto, who was recently appointed as head of the troubled office and tasked with a mandate to effect quick and meaningful changes. Bonzanto stated earlier this month that the VA firmly “understands the sense of urgency to improve” and that it vows to “better protect whistleblowers.”

Time will tell of course, and past VA shortcomings imbue agency critics with a wait-and-see attitude.

Bonzanto recently told national lawmakers that a number of new policies will better serve and protect whistleblowers going forward. Those centrally include these measures:

  • Faster and higher quality communications between agency principals and individuals coming forward with evidence of fraud-linked wrongdoing
  • Her office’s “direct investigation” into alleged instances of whistleblower retaliation

Many people will be closely watching the VA and gauging its vow-to-change declarations, given past disclosures and disappointments. We will weigh in with a timely update later this year.