A congressional investigation has been opened over allegations that the Department of Veterans Affairs has been diverting the emails of whistleblowers in an effort to spy on them. It does not appear to be a question of if they were, it is a matter of why they were, since the VA has admitted to the flagging of the emails. In an ethical matter like this, it is very difficult for the VA to justify their actions, particularly when email rules such as “Sec Divert Internal” are used. The VA wasn’t just spying, they were redirecting those emails without the sender being aware.
Still, the VA has tried to explain their side of things, such as in this quote by a VA representative:
“As part of the secretary’s commitment to changing the culture of VA to provide better customer service to veterans and to empower employees, because it is their work that makes VA better for our veterans, certain emails received by the secretary and deputy are immediately forwarded to VA’s client relations team for priority review and quick action.”
So are they just looking out for the known whistleblowers that are trying to hold the VA accountable for their missteps? Not likely. The VA claims that the term “divert” in this case actually means “priority.” Their stance is that they just wanted to be certain that whistleblowers were given priority so they could get their grievances addressed quickly, not so the VA could keep them quiet or run them out of town.
The VA has no one but themselves to blame as their reputation is again tarnished. And again, it’s sullied not by the hardworking people at the lower pay grades, but by those at or near the top. If the VA really wanted to give their employees the opportunity to come forward with ways to improve or correct processes, they could set up an email address where complaints could be sent and responded to quickly. They do not need to spy on the people speaking out.