Kuster Urges VA to Protect Whistleblowers from Retaliation
During a House Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations (O&I) hearing, U.S. Rep. Ann McLane Kuster, D-NH, heard testimony from VA whistleblowers and strongly urged VA officials to crack down on retaliation against employees who come forward to report mismanagement at the VA, according to a press statement.
Kuster currently serves as Ranking Member of the House Subcommittee on O&I, and she has long urged the VA to fire or discipline any individuals responsible for creating a culture of intimidation and retaliation at the VA.
“As Americans, it is our duty to ensure that every one of our veterans can easily access high-quality care at his or her local VA. Last year, whistleblowers helped our Committee uncover gross instances of mismanagement at VA centers around the country, which eventually led to Congress passing the Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act to resolve issues at the VA and drastically improve the quality of services offered to our veterans,” said Congresswoman Annie Kuster. “Whistleblowers are crucial to our effort to uncover any impediments to veteran care, and we must ensure not only that whistleblowers are protected, but also that any individual who attempts to retaliate against them for coming forward is immediately disciplined or fired. Leading by example is the only way to end the culture of corruption and intimidation at the VA, and I strongly urge VA officials to send a clear message to all VA staff that retaliation against whistleblowers will not be tolerated under any circumstances.”
In July of last year, the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee held a hearing to hear directly from whistleblowers about issues at the VA, and their own treatment as a result of coming forward to report fraud, mismanagement, and threats to the quality of veterans’ health care. During yesterday evening’s O&I Subcommittee hearing, the Members heard from VA whistleblowers, the Office of Special Council, and the newly created VA Office of Accountability Review about changes the VA has taken since July to better protect whistleblowers from retaliation. After hearing that the whistleblowers themselves – rather than the individuals accused of mismanagement or those responsible for retaliation – often found themselves the subject of VA investigations after filing their complaints, Congresswoman Kuster called on VA officials to immediately increase efforts to crack down on retaliation and discipline any individuals responsible for intimidating or retaliating against VA whistleblowers.
Congresswoman Kuster currently serves on the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee, and she helped lead the investigation into mismanagement scandals at VA centers in Phoenix and across the nation last year. She was recently selected by her colleagues to serve as Ranking Member of the Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee on O&I, which will allow the Congresswoman to continue to provide increased oversight at the VA to ensure every veteran can easily access high quality care. Since taking office, Kuster has held a series of roundtables throughout the state with veteran service organizations and local veterans to hear directly from them about any issues they are experiencing with their local VA facilities, so she can take their concerns back to Washington and fight for their right to access the care they need.