VA Whistleblower Faces Discipline For Revealing Alleged Harasser
A Veterans Affairs employee at a Veterans Affairs hospital in Phoenix, Arizona is facing a punishment for publicly revealing the name of a fellow employee who allegedly harassed him after the whistleblower exposed long wait times for patients, according to Fox News.
Scheduling manager Kuauhtemoc Rodriguez was accused by the VA of violating “privacy standards you are expected to enforce [and] breaching your responsibilities as a supervisor,” after he sent a copy of the email to the Daily Caller that detailed the alleged harassment and the name of the employee involved.
Rodriguez faces “reprimand or removal” for his actions.
Rodriguez admitted that he mentioned an assistant in the email, but said that he did not disclose any personal information. The VA claims that releasing the name of a VA employee violates its policy on “Sensitive Personal Information.”
“Just reporting someone’s name shouldn’t be secret — we are government employees,” Rodriguez told Fox News. “They are trying to twist anything they can to punish me.”
In November, Rodriguez made a complaint to the VA inspector general that 90 veterans waited more than 400 days for care. He made a complaint again in February saying that 4,000 veterans had their appointments cancelled after they had already waited 180 days, Fox News reported.
“Everyday alone in Specialty Care clinics there are between 10 and 15 clinic cancellations that are affecting patient care, and if Primary Care is included you can add another 10+ clinics to bring the average to over 20-25 clinics a day that are cancelled,” Rodriguez wrote in the email obtained by the Daily Caller. “This continued mismanagement is affecting the care of patients who are continually scheduled, rescheduled, and rescheduled again, causing a severe delay of care.”
The latest allegations reveal continued problems with the Phoenix VA, which has stood at the center of controversy since 2014 when it was revealed veterans were dying while waiting for care on exceedingly long wait lists.
Several other whistleblowers have since revealed misconduct and long wait lines at other VA facilities across the nation. Some of the whistleblowers say they have endured harassment and a hostile work environment after filing their complaints.
In memos to the Office of Special Counsel, a department that protects whistleblowers, Rodriguez mentioned some of the harassment he has endured. This includes increased workload, his desk being moved to a closet room with no air conditioning and having his promotion denied to him, Fox News reported.
Veterans Affairs released a statement in support of the punishment Rodriguez faces.
“The Department of Veterans Affairs is obligated to ensure the confidentiality of its beneficiaries’ and employees’ personal identifying information,” the VA said. “Employees are expected to act in a manner that is consistent with VA’s core values of Integrity, Commitment, Advocacy, Respect and Excellence. Leadership should take action to ensure the safety of our patients and staff and preserve the integrity of our mission within applicable laws and regulations.”
Rodriguez has until April 13 to respond, but then an assistant chief will carry out his punishment ranging from “reprimand to removal.”
Rep. Phil Roe, chairman of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs, who introduced legislation earlier this year that improves protections for whistleblowers, was displeased that Rodriguez was receiving punishment.
“It is unacceptable that any law-abiding whistle-blower would be punished for bringing the issues within VA to light,” Roe said in a statement, Fox News reported.