The Veterans Affairs Department accepts the findings detailed in a letter from the U.S. Office of the General Counsel to President Barack Obama substantiating reports that whistleblowers who pointed out shortcomings in the department’s health care system for veterans were not heeded, the acting VA secretary said June 23.
At VA, we depend on the service of VA employees and leaders who place the interests of Veterans above and beyond self-interest, and who live by VA’s core values of Integrity, Commitment, Advocacy, Respect, and Excellence, Sloan D. Gibson said in a statement.
I respect and welcome the letter and the insights from the Office of Special Counsel, Gibson continued. I am deeply disappointed not only in the substantiation of allegations raised by whistleblowers, but also in the failures within VA to take whistleblower complaints seriously.
The department accepts the Office of the Special Counsel’s recommendations in the letter to the president, Gibson said. Accordingly, he added, I have directed a comprehensive review of all aspects of the Office of Medical Inspector’s operation, to be completed within 14 days.
This will include a review of process, structure, resourcing, and how recommendations are tracked and reviewed, the acting secretary said, as well as consideration of personnel actions. An official will be designated to assess the letter’s conclusions and the proposed corrective actions it recommends.
In his statement, Gibson noted that he sent a message to all VA employees on June 13 regarding the importance of whistleblower protection and has met with employees at VA medical centers across the country to re-emphasize that message.
I reminded all 341,000 of our employees that we must protect whistleblowers and create workplace environments that enable full participation of employees, he added. As I told our workforce, intimidation or retaliation — not just against whistleblowers, but against any employee who raises a hand to identify a problem, make a suggestion, or report what may be a violation in law, policy, or our core values ñ is absolutely unacceptable. I will not tolerate it in our organization.