“She cried foul about the way a Veteran Affairs hospital in Hines allegedly was treating its patients. Now, she says she is being harassed by the hospital for speaking up.” Read the full story from the Sun Times.
WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) today met with Veterans Affairs Secretary Nominee Robert McDonald and requested that, if confirmed, he urgently join him in visiting Illinois’ five VA hospitals. Senator Kirk detailed his requests of McDonald in a letter, which can be seen below.
“Robert McDonald has both the military and private sector leadership experience needed to be a change agent in the big and corrupt VA bureaucracy,” Senator Kirk said. “McDonald assured me that he has been that change agent before, tackling the culture of tenured ‘salary men’ in the P&G Japanese division and I am confident after our meeting that I will vote for his confirmation, and that he and I can be partners in ending a similar culture of corruption at the VA.”
Also during their meeting, Senator Kirk repeated his call for Hines VA Director Joan Ricard, who has overseen a culture of corruption and abuse at the Hines VA for two years, to step down. Hines maintains the highest percentage of appointments scheduled over thirty days among Illinois VA hospitals, and has been faced with numerous allegations from whistleblowers over the past few months of secret wait lists and manipulated wait times by officials within the hospital.
Last Tuesday night I watched the VA Congressional hearing with testimonies from VA Whistleblowers. It was déjà vu all over again! The same tactics of management to intimidate employees are done here at Hines. I think there is a manual for managers in the VA with step by step instructions on how to keep employees in fear and silenced. It’s time for the shredder Mr. Manual.
Well, at least no one is in denial anymore that we have a real problem. The next step is action! Corrupt managers need to go, now, immediately, pronto, not next year kind of “go”. Employees need to see action. Employees need to be part of the solution.
Front line employees need to be part of a ongoing dialogue and part of developing policy. Congress and the VA secretary are too far detached from the real issues. AFGE is this link to this communication.
How can we get our voices heard? Get involved in the union. Write your representative. Write a letter to the editor. Bring you ideas to the union. Standing together we have a strong and effective voice. Local 781, let’s be an active part in this movement of change in the VA.
American Federation of Government Employees Local 781 members and activists will launch a day of action at the Edward Hines Jr. VA Medical Center to educate employees and veterans on the issues of retaliation and harassment occurring at the facility.
“Our concern is for our veterans,” said AFGE Local 781 Chief Steward Germaine Clarno. “When employees are being intimidated and retaliated against for speaking up for quality care, the nation’s veterans pay the price. In order to retain the best and brightest healthcare providers, to service the needs of our nation’s heroes, we must rid our workplace of the toxic, retaliatory practices engaged in by management.”
Through Equal Employment Opportunity records, AFGE Local 781 has learned that instances of workplace bullying and harassment have increased exponentially over the past year. Members of the National Nurses United (NNU) and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) have experienced these issues as well, according to AFGE Local 781.
“We have tried to work with management to find solutions to these issues,” said AFGE Local 781 President Miriam Krasno. “We’ve suggested workplace bullying training and other measures, all of which have been declined by management. When employees expose waste, fraud and abuse within our facility, they shouldn’t face retaliation and intimidation. We intend to take our message to Congress and the public in order to put an end to these harmful practices.”
In a recent Chicago Tribune article, American Federation of Government Employees Local 781 President Germaine Clarno rejects Veterans Affairs Executive’s claims that they are no secret wait lists for Veterans seeking care. “I’ve seen these lists,” Clarno told the Tribune in an interview Wednesday. “It just became regular, normal business.” Clarno has been calling attention to VA executives attempts to manipulate statistics on care to garner financial bonuses.
As J. David Cox, the President of AFGE, told the Chicago Tribune, VA executives receive bonuses based in part on how quickly patients are seen and making secret lists leads to poorer treatment for veterans and hides problems about staffing levels.
“If you can’t get all your work done, it’s important to say, ‘These are the obstacles,’ not just create fake waiting lists. That’s just wrong. Totally wrong.”
ABC Chicago covered the latest in the revelations of fraud and abuse committed by Veteran Affairs Directors: “The Inspector General’s report calls it a systemic problem: secret lists that hide the truth about how long veterans are waiting to receive the health care they need. President Obama called the report ‘extremely troubling,’ while Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki said the findings are ‘reprehensible.'”
While VA officials at Hines have denied having any proof of secret waiting lists, American Federation of Government Employee’s Local 781 President Germaine Clarno has been detailing the facts of abuse, and points to e-mails that document the practice of using secret wait lists.
Clarno said that many Veteran Affairs employees are willing to come forward as whistleblowers, but will need protection from retaliation.
“We do a lot of good things at the VA. I’m proud to work there. I’m proud to serve our nation’s heroes. We’ve just got to make some changes,” American Federation of Government Employees Local 781 President Germaine Clarno told NBC Chicago on May 16th. As the Federal Government investigates claims of fraud and abuse at Veterans Affairs hospitals that led to long wait time for veterans seeking care, AFGE leaders are blowing the whistle on how VA Directors would manipulate the numbers so that they could receive financial bonuses, while veterans suffered.
CBS Chicago spoke to American Federation of Government Employees Local 781 President Germaine Clarno about the union’s effort to fight for quality care for veterans. As the wait times scandal is further investigated, AFGE members will continue to fight to reduce wait times and end fraudulent practices at Veterans Affairs hospitals.