October 24, 2019

Takano, Pappas: “VA’s whistleblower office has failed to do its most important job”

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Chairman Mark Takano and Subcommittee on Oversight & Investigations Chairman Chris Pappas released the following statement after the Inspector General (IG) released their report on their investigation into VA’s Office of Accountability and Whistleblower Protection (OAWP) titled “Failures Implementing Aspects of the VA Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act of 2017”:

 

“The Inspector General report leaves little doubt that VA’s whistleblower office has failed to do its most important job -- protect whistleblowers. 

“The Inspector General reported that the Office of Accountability and Whistleblower Protection misunderstood its own mandate. After more than two years, the office still has not developed basic standards and procedures for conducting sound, unbiased investigations of whistleblower complaints. OAWP officials not only failed to counteract an environment within VA rife with retaliation, in some cases, they actually retaliated against employees themselves.

“From the outset, OAWP allowed senior leadership to personally intervene in investigations, let funds be diverted to non-OAWP projects, and struggled to properly train staff charged with conducting investigations. This report clearly shows that the current leadership still has not fixed, or even admitted, the ongoing failures of the office.

“VA has a long way to go to ensure they can adequately investigate whistleblower claims and protect those that courageously speak up—OAWP’s most important mission. Whistleblowers should have the confidence that OAWP will investigate disclosures of wrongdoing, and that whistleblowers will receive protection against retaliation.

“The IG produced 22 recommendations to get the whistleblower office on track-- at our hearing next week, the Committee will expect answers from VA about when VA will implement them.”

 

Background:

Congress established the Office of Accountability and Whistleblower Protection two years ago to ensure allegations of retaliation could be taken seriously. At our hearings this summer and through multiple inquiries to the Department, we saw that OAWP clearly failed to meet even its most basic performance requirements. Chairman Takano and Subcommittee Chair Pappas sent a letter to VA in September following up on this same question and OAWP’s lack of progress towards producing recommendations to protect whistleblowers.

 

Press Contact

Contact:

Jenni Geurink- Takano (202-225-9756)

Susan Curran- Pappas (202-603-3266)