More VA employees willing to whistleblow

Veterans affairs sign
The VA’s special counsel has requested an additional $2.4 million in her 2018 budget request specifically to handle all the whistleblower complaints.

The hospitals and affiliated healthcare facilities run by the Department of Veterans Affairs are rife with mismanagement and neglect, prompting more employees to blow the whistle on substandard care or manipulation of patient data.

VA employees have exposed staff neglect of nursing home residents at the Bedford VA Medical Center nursing facility in Massachusetts and actions by hospital leaders at the William Jennings Bryan Dorn VA Medical Center in South Carolina to mislead an accrediting body to obtain approval for a pain management program, according to The Boston Globe.

RELATED: Report: VA hospital put patients at ‘unnecessary risk’ due to poor inventory management

Carolyn Lerner, the VA’s special counsel, requested an additional $2.4 million in her 2018 budget request specifically to handle all the complaints, The Boston Globe reported. “OSC anticipates receiving more cases in (fiscal) 2017 from VA alone than the total number of cases we received from all agencies just over a decade ago,” Lerner wrote.

Observers say a number of factors may be leading to the increased whistleblowing. They include reports of fraudulent record-keeping at the VA’s facilities in Phoenix—even as patients sometimes waited months to obtain care—to suggest patients were receiving timely care, and the fact that the Trump administration and Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin have been encouraging whistleblowing.

In addition, VA officials have also engaged in manipulating patient data on a large scale to make it appear that mortality rates had improved significantly for some medical procedures, according to The Daily Caller. Michael Mann, M.D., a cardiothoracic surgeon at the UC San Francisco Health hospital who practiced at the VA for decades, told The Daily Caller that the data supplied for the VA’s National Surgical Quality Improvement Program was achieved simply by avoiding high-risk patients entirely.

“Even more garden variety lung cancer operations would be labeled high-risk in our patient population,” Mann told The Daily Caller. “Ironically, I learned it because they started to put our practice of thoracic surgery under a microscope and eventually they squashed it and got us to stop operating on risky patients and really almost any lung cancer patients at the San Francisco VA.”