Friday, December 26, 2014
FAIRFIELD-SUISUN, CALIFORNIA
99 CENTS

VA acting chief: retaliation will not be tolerated

By
From page A10 | June 07, 2014 |

Sloan Gibson

Acting Secretary of Veterans Affairs Sloan Gibson speaks to the media during a visit to the Audie L. Murphy VA Medical Center, Friday, June 6, 2014, in San Antonio. Gibson warned VA administrators on Friday that intimidation or retaliation against anyone who calls attention to problems within the veterans' health system will not be tolerated. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

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

“I think that is wrong. 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 Friday following a visit to a San Antonio VA facility.

His comments came after the Office of Special Counsel said it was looking into possible retaliation against 37 employees of the VA who filed so-called “whistleblower” complaints. The office is an independent watchdog separate from the VA which looks into whistleblower 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.

“I don’t care about what (Gibson) said. I want to see action,” Turner told the Associated Press in an interview Friday.

The Office of Special Counsel said it had blocked disciplinary actions against three VA employees who had complained, including one who was suspended for seven days after complaining to the VA’s inspector general about improper scheduling.

The agency also blocked a 30-day suspension without pay for another VA employee who reported inappropriate use of patient restraints and blocked demotion of a third employee who reported mishandling of patient care funds.

The complaints about retaliation against whistleblowers came from 28 VA facilities in 18 states and Puerto Rico, the special counsel’s office said Friday. About half the 37 complaints have come in the last two months, or after allegations about treatment delays of up to three months for veterans and secret waiting lists first surfaced.

The disclosures have set off a furor in Washington, forcing the resignation of VA Secretary Eric Shinseki last week, and prompting Congress to consider legislation to make it easier for treatment of veterans outside the government-funded VA.

Gibson, who has stepped in as acting secretary, apologized on Friday for the VA’s failures and said he is doing everything he can to fix the system.

“We have lost an awful lot of trust, and we’ve got work to do to earn it back,” Gibson said. “With veterans, we’ll do that one veteran at a time by reaching out to veterans that have been waiting too long (for care) and saying, ‘You’ve been waiting, I want to get you in the clinic. When can you come in?'”

Some veterans whose names were kept off the official electronic appointment list have died, and Gibson said on Thursday that he would ask the inspector general to look into 18 more cases of deaths to see if there is any indication they were related to long wait times. The 18 are in addition to 17 deaths reported last month.

The 18 veterans who died were among 1,700 veterans identified in a report last week by the VA’s inspector general as being “at risk of being lost or forgotten.” The investigation also found broad and deep-seated problems with delays in patient care and manipulation of waiting lists throughout the VA health care system, which provides medical care to about 9 million veterans and family members.

Gibson said in San Antonio that he has been in daily contact with Richard Griffin, the VA’s acting inspector general, and he expressed confidence that Griffin and his investigators will be able to ferret out the truth, regardless of any attempts to squelch potential whistleblowers.

VA whistleblower Turner, a veteran himself who has worked for the VA since 2011 as a medical support assistant, said until the VA’s management is restructured and supervisors who were responsible for causing or ignoring the problems are removed, nothing will change and employees who may wish to come forward to report other problems will be discouraged from doing so.

“I will not stop. I will not waver in my actions until they make drastic improvements,” he said.

The Associated Press

The Associated Press

LEAVE A COMMENT

Discussion | No comments

The Daily Republic does not necessarily condone the comments here, nor does it review every post. Read our full policy

.

Solano News

Area churches bring joy, toys to children

By Susan Winlow | From Page: A1, 1 Comment | Gallery

 
Rear ends, reunions define 2014 in music

By Nick DeCicco | From Page: B1

Santa spreads Christmas cheer at Bridge to Life

By Susan Winlow | From Page: A1, 2 Comments | Gallery

 
Word of Mouth ready to ring in 2015 at Dimitri’s

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: B1

Solano’s 2014 art scene: A year in review

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: B1

 
Get your blues on – for a musical cause

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: B1

 
 
Fairfield police log: Dec. 24, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A12

Weather for Friday, Dec. 26, 2014

By Daily Republic staff | From Page: B12

 
Suisun City police log: Dec. 24, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A12

.

US / World

Mother uses grief to help murder victims’ families

By The Associated Press | From Page: A1

 
San Francisco creates court only for veterans

By The Associated Press | From Page: A1

California plane crash victims were father and son

By The Associated Press | From Page: A3

 
Man shot with stun gun dies at border crossing

By The Associated Press | From Page: A3, 1 Comment

California officials issue caramel apple warning

By The Associated Press | From Page: A3, 1 Comment

 
Christmas brings California cooler weather, gusty winds

By The Associated Press | From Page: A3

Audit highlights state employee wrongdoing

By The Associated Press | From Page: A3, 1 Comment

 
US traveler released from East Timor jail

By The Associated Press | From Page: A4

Obama personal chef to hang up apron after 6 years

By The Associated Press | From Page: A4

 
More protests sparked after shooting near Ferguson

By The Associated Press | From Page: A4, 15 Comments

Nevada goats help eat, recycle Christmas trees

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5, 1 Comment

 
Hundreds of theaters begin screening ‘The Interview’

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

Streaming release of ‘Interview’ test for industry

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

 
Militants attack AU Somalia base, at least 5 dead

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

Monkey gives first aid to electrocuted friend

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7, 1 Comment

 
Saudi women drivers referred to terrorism court

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10, 2 Comments | Gallery

Police and fire officials save California family’s Christmas

By The Associated Press | From Page: A12

 
.

Living

Today in History: Dec. 26, 2014

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

 
Community calendar: Dec. 26, 2014

By Glen Faison | From Page: A2

Sister’s angry outbursts may be a medical issue

By Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar | From Page: A9

 
Horoscopes: Dec. 26, 2014

By Holiday Mathis | From Page: A9

.

Entertainment

Week in Preview Dec. 26, 2014 – Jan. 1, 2015

By Susan Winlow | From Page: B1

 
‘Frozen’ is named top entertainer of the year by AP

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Entertainment calendar Dec. 26, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: B4

Warsaw’s lost architecture portrayed in miniature

By The Associated Press | From Page: B5

 
Review: ‘Unbroken’ is beautiful, but impersonal

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6

Angelina Jolie’s latest incarnation: filmmaker

By Maureen Fissolo | From Page: B6

 
TVGrid

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B11

.

Sports

James hears plenty of cheers in return to Miami

By The Associated Press | From Page: B7 | Gallery

 
2014 sports quirks: In year of odd bounces, reality bites at World Cup

By The Associated Press | From Page: B7 | Gallery

 
Colin Kaepernick weighing his offseason approach

By The Associated Press | From Page: B7

Former TE Ben Utecht delivers musical message

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8 | Gallery

 
K-State’s Snyder still penning old-school notes

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8 | Gallery

Fresno State pushed around in in Hawaii Bowl

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

 
Arians reportedly to go back to Lindley as starter

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

 
This date in sports history for Friday, Dec. 26, 2014

By The Associated Press | From Page: B9

Former NBA All-Star Marbury fan favorite in China

By The Associated Press | From Page: B10 | Gallery

 
Signups for Friday, Dec. 26, 2014

By Paul Farmer | From Page: B10

D-I’s youngest coach also has inexperienced team

By The Associated Press | From Page: B10

 
No. 17 Wisconsin hopes program back on steady ground

By The Associated Press | From Page: B10

Rookie Martin makes quick impression in Dallas

By The Associated Press | From Page: B10

 
Eagles have quarterback questions going into 2015

By The Associated Press | From Page: B10

New OT rule in minor-league hockey generating buzz

By The Associated Press | From Page: B10

 
To reduce elitism, British horse racing educating spectators

By The Associated Press | From Page: B10

Bad news for Balotelli as Liverpool alters system

By The Associated Press | From Page: B10

 
LeBron James, Steph Curry lead NBA All-Star voting

By The Associated Press | From Page: B10

.

Business

 
Bad Santa? 5 tips to tackle your holiday gift returns

By The Associated Press | From Page: B11

.

Obituaries

Thomas A. O’Neill

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

 
.

Comics

For Better or Worse

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Beetle Bailey

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Dilbert

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Rose is Rose

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

B.C.

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Garfield

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Get Fuzzy

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Peanuts

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Wizard of Id

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Frank and Ernest

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Zits

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Sally Forth

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Pickles

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Blondie

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Baldo

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Baby Blues

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Sudoku

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

 
Crossword

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

Word Sleuth

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

 
Bridge

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

Cryptoquote

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9