The Atlanta Veterans Affairs medical center targeted a whistleblower for exposing rampant misuse of taxpayer funds by management, according to a new Wednesday report from a federal whistleblower protection agency.
In an effort to clamp down on bad press following reports of veteran suicides in 2013, Atlanta VA leadership went after Greg Kendall for mentioning that it was a bad idea to funnel money to outside charities when crucial internal operations faced a severe shortage of funds, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports.
Shortly after he had reported his concerns to management, a story came out in local media in August 2013 about the same exact problems, except the source was unnamed. Hospital management assumed that Kendall was the source. To hit back, management changed his job duties, his supervisors and his performance goals. Leadership also moved his office. A few months after Kendall was given new performance standards, management told them he was failing miserably.
Kendall reached out to Democratic Rep. David Scott to complain about his treatment, but somehow the VA managed to get a copy of that complaint.
According to the OSC, one Atlanta VA official wrote, “I still don’t know who our mole is…I need you [referring to another employee] to make sure PAO’s our [sic] not in [our] email group!”
Kendall was staring down demotion in 2015, but OSC managed to intervene on his behalf and negotiate a freezing of that demotion, so that the agency could look into Kendall’s claims of retaliation.
He’s now been paid an undisclosed settlement, followed the OSC’s investigation.
In 2015 alone, the OSC has received more than 2,000 claims of whistleblower retaliation, a reflection of widespread culture in the VA.
“Mr. Kendall did the right thing by raising concerns about an inappropriate expenditure of taxpayer dollars, but the Atlanta VA hospital failed to heed his warnings and instead targeted Mr. Kendall,” Special Counsel Carolyn Lerner said in a statement. “While the VA has now appropriately resolved Mr. Kendall’s claims, the VA must continue working to make its culture more welcome to whistleblowers in all of its facilities.”
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