A Decade Of ‘Unreasonable’ Whistleblower Investigations

inewsource compiled information from hundreds of reports published online by the Office of Special Counsel, an independent federal agency that reviews whistleblower investigations conducted across the executive branch.

Each investigation in the dataset includes the locations where the alleged events occurred, the date the special counsel’s office closed the case, the federal agency conducting the investigation and whether the agency substantiated the allegations. The last column explains whether the Office of Special Counsel deemed the agency’s investigation “reasonable” or “unreasonable.”

In cases investigated by the Department of Veterans Affairs, inewsource noted which entity within the department conducted the investigation. Click on the “Data” tab on the web page to see descriptions of the VA offices listed in the dataset.

We found the VA Office of the Medical Inspector investigations (marked "OMI" in the data) of the veterans healthcare system have been labeled “unreasonable” in about 16% of cases reviewed by the special counsel’s office since 2009. 

Read our investigation here. Click here for a detailed explanation of what the special counsel does and how we compiled our data.

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Congress expanding investigation into San Diego VA liver study

Congress will conduct a hearing to investigate a powerful healthcare office in the Department of Veterans Affairs following inewsource stories that exposed the office’s shoddy review of a dangerous San Diego liver study. A new inewsource analysis shows the agency under scrutiny — the VA’s Office of the Medical Inspector — has a long history of performing poor investigations into veterans’ medical care.

The House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs will lead the inquiry into the Office of the Medical Inspector, which investigates concerns raised about the VA healthcare system, the largest integrated healthcare system in the United States. In essence, the OMI’s role is to improve the quality of medical care and ensure patient safety at every VA medical center across the country.

The hearing could lead to major consequences for the 9 million veterans who receive healthcare at 1,255 VA medical facilities. The committee could decide to refer its findings to the FBI or other law enforcement agencies, or it could recommend new bills in Congress to improve how the medical inspector’s office operates. 

A review of hundreds of pages of whistleblower reports over the past decade reveals the medical inspector’s office has a pattern of conducting poor investigations into the VA healthcare system. inewsource found that the medical inspector’s investigations have been deemed “unreasonable” in about 16% of the reports it sends to the special counsel’s office.

That’s a higher rate of “unreasonable” investigations than the special counsel’s office finds in other federal agencies. On average, only about 11% of all the cases the special counsel reviews — which includes hundreds of cases from agencies across the executive branch of government — are “unreasonable,” inewsource’s analysis shows. 

Read the full story here.

VA Offices

Many entities within the Department of Veterans Affairs conduct investigations into claims brought by whistleblowers. Here’s a description of all the VA entities included in our data.

OMI: Veterans Health Administration Office of the Medical Inspector

OIG: Office of Inspector General

AIB: Administrative Investigation Board from the Office of General Counsel

VBA: Veterans Benefits Administration

VHA team: Investigative team from the Veterans Health Administration

OAR: Office of Accountability Review (now part of the Office of Accountability and Whistleblower Protection)

OMI and OIG: A joint investigative team from the Office of the Medical Inspector and Office of Inspector General

VISN: Veterans Health Administration Veterans Integrated Service Network

PL&O: Veterans Health Administration Procurement and Logistics Office

New Mexico VA Health Care System: Investigation conducted by leadership at the New Mexico VA healthcare system

Information Access and Privacy Office: A Veterans Health Administration office

GEMS: Green Environmental Management System

OSVA: The Office of the Secretary of Veterans Affairs

OCAMES: Office of Capital Asset Management and Engineering Support

Unclear: VA entity conducting the investigation is not stated in special counsel records

OGC and VA Police: Office of General Counsel and VA Police

NHPP: National Health Physics Program

VHA special agent: Investigation led by a special agent in the Veterans Health Administration

OHI: Office of Inspector General’s Office of Healthcare Inspections

OSLE: Office of Security and Law Enforcement

OHRM: The Office of Human Resources Management

PCA and Health Information Management Office: Privacy Compliance Assurance Office and the Health Information Management Office

HRM Group: Human Resources Management group

RCS: Readjustment Counseling Services

OIG and FBI: VA Office of Inspector General and the Federal Bureau of Investigation

VA Biomedical Engineers: Engineers from the National Center for Patient Safety

IARA: Veterans Health Administration Office of Internal Audit

VCS: Veterans Canteen Service

GEC: Geriatrics and Extended Care

EPS: Veterans Health Administration Environmental Programs Service

ONS: Office of Nursing Services

West Texas VA Health Care System: Investigation conducted by leadership at the West Texas VA healthcare system

ORO: Office of Research Oversight

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