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Problems at the VA continue, pt.1

Retaliation claims and allegations of misconduct by supervisors and managers are always a difficult situation for any employees. Their managers should be above reproach, since they are not paid to perform the essential function of the department or agency, but to see that those functions are effectively executed.

When managers fail to properly execute their duties, as they apparently did at the Phoenix VA hospital, bad things can happen for the veterans needing healthcare services from the facility. 

They are alleged to have manipulated the numbers by creating two sets of scheduling books. The fraud made it look like the hospital was meeting all of the scheduling "goals," when many veterans experienced protracted delays, which were tracked outside the scheduling system.

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has been investigating the matter for months, but that, too, now has delayed by allegations of a conflict of interest. A difficulty in performing a fair investigation of misconduct and retaliation is ensuring that those investigating the matter are not tainted by their own interest in the investigation.

Another issue is that even if those involved with the investigation were not directly implicated in the matter being investigated, management as a whole tends to be protective of its prerogatives and fearful of being too critical of other managers.

This can color an investigation and turn it into a virtual cover-up of the original misconduct. In the case of the Phoenix VA hospital, the "administrative liaison" to the team investigating the matter was to be the executive secretary to the former director of the hospital, who was alleged to have participated in the retaliation against whistleblowers at the facility.

The former director was fired for accepting inappropriate gifts, but the allegations of retaliation were not fully investigated. Nonetheless, assigning this person's executive secretary to any role in this investigation is troubling, potentially chilling witness testimony, and leading those involved to question the impartiality of the investigation.

We will continue this discussion next week.

Azcentral.com, "Snafu forces VA to reset probe of top Phoenix managers," Dennis Wagner, The Republic, February 15, 2015

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