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Retaliation at VA common, watchdog group finds

| Monday, July 21, 2014, 7:48 p.m.

WASHINGTON — A pharmacy supervisor at the VA was placed on leave after complaining about errors and delays in delivering medications to patients at a hospital in Palo Alto, Calif. In Pennsylvania, a doctor was removed from clinical work after complaining that on-call doctors were refusing to go to a VA hospital in Wilkes-Barre.

Medical professionals from coast to coast have pointed out problems at the VA, only to suffer retaliation from supervisors and other high-ranking officials, according to a report released on Monday by a private government watchdog.

The report compiled by the Project on Government Oversight, a group that conducts investigations and works with whistle-blowers, is based on comments and complaints filed by nearly 800 current and former VA employees and veterans. Those comments indicate that concerns about the VA go far beyond the long waiting times or falsified appointment records that have received much recent attention, extending to the quality of health care services veterans receive, the report said.

The group set up a website in mid-May for complaints and said it has received allegations of wrongdoing from 35 states and the District of Columbia.

“A recurring and fundamental theme has become clear: VA employees across the country fear they will face repercussions if they dare to raise a dissenting voice,” said Danielle Brian, the group's executive director.

The report from the group, known as POGO, emerged a day before the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee was to hold a hearing on the nomination of Robert McDonald to be VA secretary.

A federal investigative agency says it is examining 67 claims of retaliation by supervisors at the VA against employees who filed whistle-blower complaints. The independent Office of Special Counsel said 30 of the complaints about retaliation have passed the initial review stage.

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