Saturday, October 26, 2019

Whistleblower office at VA is failing in its most basic mission, watchdog says

One of President Trump’s signature initiatives to turn around a culture of retaliation against whistleblowers at the Department of Veterans Affairs is an office in disarray that instead has punished them — and held almost no wrongdoers accountable.
Those are the conclusions of a scathing report released Thursday by the agency’s inspector general, which found that the Office of Accountability and Whistleblower Protection created early in Trump’s term in 2017 has failed in its core mission.
The president heralded the office as a tool to clean up the troubled agency. More than two years later it resembles a kangaroo court, the inspector general found, running inferior investigations that VA attorneys cannot trust and “floundering” in its duty to protect employees who report wrongdoing.
Just one senior manager has been removed by an office created to discipline senior-level managers involved in misconduct, Inspector General Michael Missal found.
The office has shown “significant deficiencies,” including poor leadership, skimpy training of investigators, a misunderstanding of its mission and a failure to discipline senior leaders, according to the 100-page report.
“Notably, in its first two years of operation, the [office] acted in ways that were inconsistent with its statutory authority while it simultaneously floundered in its mission to protect whistleblowers,” the report says. VA “created an office culture that was sometimes alienating to the very individuals it was meant to protect.”
In response, VA spokeswoman Christina Mandreucci said in a statement that the report “largely focuses on [the office’s] operations under previous leaders who no longer work at VA.” She said its new leadership has independently identified many of the issues the inspector general highlights and is moving to make changes, ensuring greater oversight over investigations and halting retaliation against whistleblowers.

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