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.
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.
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
AIB: Administrative Investigation Board from the Office of General Counsel
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
VHA special agent: Investigation led by a special agent in the Veterans Health Administration
OHI: Office of Inspector General’s Office of Healthcare Inspections
PCA and Health Information Management Office: Privacy Compliance Assurance Office and the Health Information Management Office
HRM Group: Human Resources Management group
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
West Texas VA Health Care System: Investigation conducted by leadership at the West Texas VA healthcare system