Whistleblower retaliation in the VA scandal

It’s just not a proper scandal party until we’ve got alleged retaliation against whistleblowers.  The Coloradoan brings us such a story from Fort Collins, one of several hospitals and clinics involved in the VA scandal:

The whistleblower behind the federal investigation of the Fort Collins Veterans Affairs clinic said she was put on two-week unpaid leave for not “cooking the books” when scheduling appointments.

Lisa Lee, a former Navy reservist now on active duty in Hawaii, told the Coloradoan she and another scheduler were transferred from Fort Collins in March 2013 for refusing to hide wait times between desired appointment dates and actual dates. She said the suspension came after she filed an internal grievance about the transfer and scheduling practices.

“Why are they throwing me under the bus when I’m trying to say what the problem is?” Lee asked.  It’s one of those questions that pretty much answers itself.  She’s convinced she was punished to set an example for other schedulers.

As if things couldn’t get any sleazier, Lee’s treatment changed rather dramatically after she started blowing that whistle at federal overseers:

When she started talking with federal oversight agencies, Lee said administrators at the VA offered her a deal that removed the suspension from her record and paid her for those two weeks. The deal was contingent on ending any whistleblowing behavior at the clinic, she said. It was a matter of principle to continue the fight, she said. The idea of returning to the VA didn’t appeal either.

“Look what I’d be going back to: a snake pit,” she said.

She mildly defended the author of the email, saying someone in his position as a telehealth coordinator “didn’t make the decision. He was told what to do.”

She said his mistake was putting it in writing, whereas others discussed it. The author has since been put on leave, with VA Secretary Eric Shinseki calling that behavior “unacceptable.”

Oooh, Secretary Shinseki sent someone else on a paid vacation!  Things are getting serious now!


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