• Report: VA failed to protect whistleblowers from retaliation

    By: Samantha Manning

    Updated:

    The Department of Veterans Affairs failed to properly protect whistleblowers and investigate their complaints, according to a new report.

    An Inspector General investigation examined the Office of Accountability and Whistleblower Protection (OAWP) at the VA.

    "The OAWP failed to fully protect whistleblowers from retaliation,” Inspector General for the VA, Michael Missal, said during testimony to a House committee Thursday. "VA employees who identify serious misconduct must feel protected when coming forward with complaints."

    "There was a culture of fear that was created by the processes,” Rep. Debbie Wasserman Shultz (D-FL 23rd District) said.

    Dr. Tamara Bonzanto, Assistant Secretary of the OAWP said she flagged major problems created under the previous leadership which she has since changed.

    Bonzanto pointed to investigative reports without witness interviews, a backlog of 572 cases dating back to 2017 and a list kept on the whistleblowers.

    "This list contained detailed information about allegations raised by individuals and OAWP staff opinion about the individuals and their allegations,” Bonzanto said.

    Bonzanto said the OAWP has created smaller investigative teams to improve oversight and started a quality control team to independently review whistleblower complaints.

    Bonzanto said the goal is to reduce the backlog of 572 cases to 120 by the end of next year.

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