VA whistleblowers push for system-wide changes to improve patient care

Whistleblowers who put a spotlight on problems at Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) medical facilities that resulted in a nationwide scandal last year vow to keep up the pressure on the agency to improve care for veterans.

The group, known as the "VA Truth Tellers," have set up a Facebook page to support other VA whistleblowers through their own experiences disclosing wrongdoings at medical facilities across the country. Members also plan to speak at a whistleblower panel in Washington next month, according to USA Today.

The whistleblowers group includes roughly two dozen current and former VA employees from medical centers in 10 states that serve more than 600,000 veterans each year, reports USA Today. Members include doctors, nurses, social workers and administrators, who say they will keep pressure on the VA to fix the widespread problems that included secret wait lists to cover up long wait times for veterans to receive care, protect other whistleblowers from retaliation and improve patient care in VA facilities.

"I think that all of us coming together will send a message. The message is, 'VA you've got to change'," Germaine Clarno, a social worker at the Hines VA Medical Center near Chicago, told the newspaper.

Members of the group went public with reports of manipulated patient wait times and mismanaged care of suicidal veterans in Phoenix; malfeasance in Montgomery and Tuskegee, Alabama; and poor veteran care in Wilmington, Delaware. They say the problems they exposed--which led to patient harm and even death--continue despite the appointment of VA Secretary Robert McDonald who took over following the resignation of Eric Shinseki who came under fire for the wait-time scandal.

Some whistleblowers faced retaliation for exposing wrongdoing and say until agency leaders remove managers and supervisors who ignored or failed to fix problems, the system won't change.

Despite the whistleblowers complaints that change isn't happening fast enough, a top Capitol Hill legislator says there is no short-term fix to the issues uncovered in the scandal. Rep. Jeff Miller (R-Fla.), chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, said in a Federal News Radio interview that problems at the VA did not occur overnight, and will not be easily fixed.

To learn more:
- read the USA Today article
- visit the VA Truth Tellers Facebook page
- here is the Federal News Radio piece

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