The United States Office of the Special Counsel (OSC) announced recently that it will investigate the alleged retaliations against 37 whistleblowers that filed complaints of fraud, malfeasance, and improper procedure in the Department of Veterans Affairs.
“The Federal False Claims Act gives every citizen the power to stand up against fraud and corruption,” said Chris Paulos, an attorney who practices in qui tam, or whistleblower, and False Claims Act litigation with the Levin, Papantonio law firm. “It gives men and women a chance to say something about it and, hopefully, do something about it.”
The OSC said the complaints alleging retaliation were filed by VA employees in the states of Arkansas, Arizona, California, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Kentucky, Michigan, North Carolina, New York, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, and Wyoming.
“We’re concerned by what we’re seeing,” said OSC spokesman Nick Schwellenbach. “…The frequency of retaliation complaints has given us a lot of pause.”
NBC News reported that of the 37 cases, the OSC has given details on three cases, including instances where a worker filed a complaint concerning improper scheduling practices. Workers in VA clinics across the country were allegedly instructed to falsify scheduling books by entering different appointment dates than what veterans had requested.
The false scheduling created congestion in the flow of appointments and caused many veterans to wait, more often that not, for months on end to be seen. For some, it takes years as 64,000 veterans have made appointments within the last decade have not been seen. This can be especially dangerous because ailments can take over during the long waits and kill the awaiting veteran.
Just this year, a former clinic director of a Phoenix-based VA hospital noted that 40 veterans passed away while awaiting treatment.