Many are aware of the systemic issues throughout the VA healthcare systems. There have been numerous complaints and documented issues that, to the frustration of many veterans, don’t seem to garner much attention from the people actually in charge of these hospitals. The issues have ranged anywhere from difficulties in getting transplants to the literal theft of money allocated for hospital grounds (which was met with very little consequences for the perpetrators).
In order to address problems within a bureaucratic institution like this, “whistleblowers” need to feel comfortable coming forward — many honest people join the VA with the intent to simply help veterans, and to those ends they may be inclined to speak out against those who are not doing the right thing. This includes large issues like criminal neglect or theft, but it also includes smaller ones like the mistreatment of a patient or incompetency with administrative tasks (which don’t seem so small to those involved). The hard truth is that if these whistleblowers feel like coming forward is going to get them fired, and in turn nothing will really happen, then realistically they are not going to come forward very often.
President Trump has made several claims to increase the quality of the Department of Veteran’s Affairs. Under his direction, the VA has created the Office of Accountability and Whistleblower Protection, which is “committed to providing immediate investigative services within all Veterans Affairs offices to ensure the improved quality of service to each Veteran.” The Office of the Inspector General within the VA also offers an electronic form available to veterans and VA employees alike.
The important part here is not veteran complaints. Veterans have been submitting complaints for plenty of time, and while they probably shouldn’t stop, it is unrealistic to assume that one more letter regarding slow service or difficulty in making an appointment is going to change everything. However, it seems that, from the top down, the complaints by VA employees will begin to be taken more seriously as time goes on.
However, major changes like these in a heavily bureaucratic system take time before they can really sink their teeth in. If a head VA employee simply hasn’t been doing anything for years, just sitting in their office and messing around, that is probably known as business as usual for those around him or her, especially if that person is in a position of power. It may be a while before whistleblowing is expected in such cases, rather than the exception that it seems to be now.
Featured image courtesy of the Associated Press.