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Uncle Sam Wants Names of VA Whistleblowers; POGO Protects Identities

Posted by Larry Doyle on June 16, 2014 9:05 AM |

You do not need to read my blog to know the Veterans Administration has some serious issues that have impacted the health and well being of countless veterans. These issues are not new developments.

Very simply, the failures within the VA are due to a government that is badly mismanaged and often engaged in practices that are fraudulent, if not totally corrupt.

The VA has not only failed countless numbers of veterans but, in adding insult to injury, it has punished those internally who have tried to do the right thing. How so?

Whistleblowers who have brought attention to the fraud and corruption within the VA have not been embraced but rather ignored, intimidated, and often fired. As we well know, mismanagement, fraud, and corruption much prefer the cover of darkness than the light of transparency.

The VA may want to have us believe that they have a practice that prevents reprisals against whistleblowers but, as displayed in today’s New York Times, the reality displays a stark contrast. So if you are an employee of the VA, would you run the very real risk of losing your job by bringing information to the Inspector General of the organization? Maybe not. Might you prefer to seek out an organization that has a longstanding tradition of pursuing real transparency within the government and protecting whistleblowers in the process? Looks a little more appealing.

In fact, that organization, the Project on Government Oversight, has been inundated with information from whistleblowers within the VA. How is Uncle Sam, in the personage of the IG’s Office at the VA responding? They have issued a subpoena demanding that POGO turn over the names of the whistleblowers. POGO recently issued the following letter entitled We Won’t Reveal Our Sources in response:

If you’ve been following the news about the growing scandal at the Department of Veterans Affairs, you may have seen that the VA’s Inspector General has issued a subpoena to the Project On Government Oversight demanding we turn over the names of all VA whistleblowers who have contacted us in the last month.

The deadline for us to comply with the subpoena passed at 10 a.m.

We’re writing this email to keep you updated on this serious threat to our mission. Under no circumstances does POGO plan to release any information that would compromise whistleblowers.

It has not happened in our 33-year history. It’s not going to happen now.

Over the years, the government has tried to force us to reveal our sources several times, including a subpoena for my home phone records. We have prevailed every time. And we will prevail this time.

We believe the IG’s attempt to get our records violates not only our constitutional rights but it also sends a chilling message to anyone who might speak out about corruption or mismanagement within the VA.

In the last few days, we’ve received encouragement and support from many of our friends and supporters. Sen. Tom Coburn sent a letter to the VA IG questioning the reasons for the subpoena.  Peter Van Buren, a former U.S. Foreign Service officer who blew the whistle on policy failures he witnessed in Iraq, summed up what’s at stake in a terrific column, which we posted here.

For now, we’re waiting for the IG to make the next move, which we hope involves a realization that its subpoena is terribly misguided. However, if that doesn’t happen, we’re going to need your support, whether it’s sending emails to the IG, signing petitions or contributing to our fight against the subpoena. I will give you another update next week.

With sincere appreciation for your support,

Danielle Brian
Executive Director

POGO’s response to the IG

Associated Press report

Sen. Coburn’s letter to the IG (LD’s edit: A great read.) 

Where are those within the Obama administration and elsewhere on Capitol Hill who want to do the right thing by the veterans and would tell the VA’s IG to stand down and retract this subpoena?

If Washington truly cares about the veterans, I would recommend they embrace POGO and the information they have gathered so the appropriate corrective measures can be taken and those engaged in the mismanagement, fraud, and corruption can be exposed.

I welcome supporting POGO and its great work. I hope you will, as well.

Navigate accordingly.

Larry Doyle

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  • “. . . acting VA secretary Sloan D. Gibson tried to alleviate fear of retaliation with a message to all employees Friday. “I want to make clear that intimidation or retaliation against whistleblowers — or any employee who raises a hand to identify a legitimate problem, make a suggestion, or report what may be a violation of law, policy, or our core values — is absolutely unacceptable,” he said. “I will not tolerate it.”

    That statement is important, but for its message to be real it must seep throughout the bureaucracy.

    “People had a fear of retaliation if they said there is not enough staffing” to deal with long waiting lines, said J.David Cox Sr., a former VA nurse and president of the American Federation of Government Employees. AFGE represents about two-thirds of VA’s staff.

    POGO, according to Griffin, offered to disclose the types of cases it had but not the source of that information. But Griffin said that his office needs identities to determine whether it has already received complaints from those individuals “and if not, to pursue relevant information they may have.”

    Griffin’s letter also indicated the scale of his office’s “massive investigation,” saying: “To date we have conducted hundreds of interviews, obtained and are reviewing more than a million e-mails, reviewing hundreds of medical and other records, and reviewing thousands of complaints received through our Hotline, including many from members of Congress.”

    The IG and POGO both want to get the whole truth about the VA scandal. They should be able to do that before this squabble gets nasty and without forcing POGO to reveal its sources.”

    Fight Between Two Watchdogs in VA Drama Could Affect Federal Whistleblowers:

  • Van



  • Peter Sivere

    Someone should investigate this guy to why he never found anything going back to 1997. I can only imagaine what is buried in the closet. What a disgrace.

    Richard J. Griffin
    Acting Inspector General

    Richard J. Griffin was appointed as Deputy Inspector General of the Department of Veterans Affairs on November 23, 2008. With the Inspector General, he directs a nationwide staff of auditors, investigators, health care inspectors, and support personnel. His office conducts independent oversight reviews to improve the economy, efficiency, and effectiveness of VA programs, and to prevent and detect criminal activity, waste, abuse, and fraud. Mr. Griffin previously served as VA Inspector General from November 1997 to June 2005.

    Mr. Griffin came to VA from the Department of Housing and Urban Development Office of Inspector General where he served as a senior advisor to the Inspector General from March 2008 to November 2008, assisting him in managing all aspects of that organization’s audits, inspections, investigations, congressional and public affairs, budget, and strategic planning.

    Mr. Griffin served as the Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of Diplomatic Security at the Department of State where he led a global workforce of 32,000 security and law enforcement professionals from June 2005 to November 2007. His office was responsible for ensuring the safe and secure conduct of United States diplomacy across the world. He concurrently served as Director of the Office of Foreign Missions, with the rank of Ambassador, where he managed reciprocity and immunity issues for foreign diplomats in the United States.

    Mr. Griffin previously served as Deputy Director at the U.S. Secret Service, where he was responsible for planning and directing all investigative, protective, and administrative programs. He began his career with the Secret Service in 1971 as an agent in the Chicago office. Subsequent positions included Assistant Special Agent in Charge of the Presidential Protective Division, Special Agent in Charge in Los Angeles, Deputy Assistant Director in the Office of Investigations, and Assistant Director for Protective Operations.

    During his career, he has received a number of special achievement awards including the Senior Executive Service Presidential Rank Award of Meritorious Executive in 1994 and 2011. In 2000 and 2005, he received the Exceptional Service Award of the Department of Veterans Affairs.

    In 1971, Mr. Griffin earned a bachelor’s degree in economics from Xavier University in Cincinnati, Ohio, and in 1984, received a master’s degree in business administration from Marymount University in Arlington, Virginia. He is a 1983 graduate of the National War College. In May 2004, he received an honorary doctorate in Humane Letters from Marymount University.

  • Beth Strycharz

    Larry, I hope you keep us posted on this one. Thanks

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