After complaints brought to the media by a mental health worker last June, the U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC) is taking a look at claims of a secret wait list at a Veterans Affairs (VA) hospital in Louisiana–where ultimately more than three dozen veterans died as a result.
On Thursday, Watchdog reported Shea Wilkes contacted the media last June after the VA Inspector General refused to investigate his complaints about extremely long wait times at the Overton Brooks VA Medical Center.
Watchdog noted Wilkes’ attorney, Richard John, said the IG’s office even opened an investigation as to how Wilkes obtained the secret list to provide evidence to the IG’s office.
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But the mental health worker has a renewed faith in the OSC’s new investigation. “The Special Counsel is really interested in helping,” Wilkes said. He sent the OSC a letter last autumn that read in part: “What I find astonishing is that the majority of the OIG’s investigation is not into the allegations mentioned above but in only how I obtained the mental health waiting list.” The letter continues:
Numerous employees within Mental Health service have expressed an interest in speaking with the OIG and I have relayed this to the OIG but still at this point OIG has not spoken with many of the mental health staff members that have information related to the manipulation of appointment times etc.
It has become apparent that individuals within leadership have also made it very clear to others in the service that the whistleblower is under investigation in an effort to keep others not to come forward. As I also said in my previous complaint there have also been threats of legal action if leadership finds out who released or releases any information to me or the media.
Comments from the VA IG’s office seems to suggest they believe Wilkes’ case is a run of the mill complaint. “The OIG continues to investigate allegations related to wait times at various facilities,” spokeswoman Catherine Gromek said.
“While we will not comment on ongoing work, the OIG has many investigative tools that we use during any investigation including interviews, document reviews, email reviews, and the use of polygraphs,” Gromek added.
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