Tuesday, January 16, 2018
News Roundup

VA acting chief says retaliation will not be tolerated

SAN ANTONIO, Texas — Investigators said they are examining allegations that supervisors in the veterans health system retaliated against 37 employees who complained about practices such as falsifying records to cover up months-long delays in scheduling appointments. The acting VA chief said such reprisals will not be tolerated.

"It is absolutely unacceptable," acting Veterans Affairs Secretary Sloan Gibson said Friday.

"There have been questions raised about intimidation or even retaliation. There is a law that forbids that, and we'll follow the law," Gibson said at a news conference following a visit to a VA facility in San Antonio.

The Office of Special Counsel said it is looking into possible retaliation against 37 VA employees who filed whistle-blower complaints. The office is an independent watchdog separate from the VA that looks into whistle-blower complaints from across the federal government.

But one of the 37 who complained of reprisals, Brian Turner, said he is not reassured by Gibson's vow to discipline those who retaliated. Turner, who works at North Central Federal Clinic in San Antonio, said he was intimidated by his supervisors for complaining that scheduling clerks in Austin, San Antonio and Waco were regularly told to enter false information to make it appear that wait times for appointments were far shorter than they really were.

The Office of Special Counsel said it has blocked disciplinary actions against three VA employees who had complained. The complaints about retaliation against whistle-blowers came from 28 VA facilities in 18 states and Puerto Rico, the office said Friday.

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