OSC: VA showed 'reluctance to acknowledge wrongdoing' following whistle-blower complaints

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The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs was slow to address wrongdoing alleged by whistle-blowers at Manchester (N.H.) VA Medical Center, according to a report from the U.S. Office of Special Counsel.

The whistle-blowers alleged various patients at the medical center developed serious spinal cord disease due to "clinical neglect"; that the chief of the spinal cord unit "improperly copied and pasted patient chart notes" for more than a decade; and that the medical center's operating room "has repeatedly been infested with flies," according to the OSC.

The report contends VA administration did not immediately or appropriately respond to whistle-blowers' initial complaints.

"These cases are representative of VA's ongoing difficulties in providing appropriate and expeditious patient care and appear to demonstrate issues with VA's efforts to ensure allegations are appropriately reviewed," the OSC wrote. "The agency reports received by the OSC were not fully responsive and were frequently evasive in their reluctance to acknowledge wrongdoing."

The OSC said the VA apparently did not publicly acknowledge and respond to confirmed wrongdoing until The Boston Globe published a report in July 2017. Additionally, the office said the VA knew of the allegations as early as January 2017, "but did not take any action to remove responsible management officials or initiate a comprehensive review of the facility" until after the publication of The Boston Globe report.

According to New Hampshire Public Radio, the VA removed Manchester VA Director Danielle Ocker and Chief of Staff James Schlosser shortly after that July report.

VA Spokesman Curt Cashour said in a statement to New Hampshire Public Radio: "VA appreciates the Office of Special Counsel's review, but we disagree with OSC's contention that we were slow to address these concerns."

 

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