KGUN 9News


VA whistleblowers skeptical of federal probe

Posted at 7:04 PM, Apr 05, 2016
and last updated 2016-04-06 14:10:29-04
It's been two years since the Phoenix VA scandal broke and now the Tucson VA faces a federal probe after our investigation revealed a severe staffing crisis and alleged cover-ups.
Congresswoman Ann Kirpatrick demanded an immediate federal investigation when the Phoenix scandal broke. At the time, she was on the House Committee on Veteran's Affairs.
Kirpatrick is stunned to find out, two years after the Phoenix scandal, reports of a severe staffing crisis and whistleblower claims of deceptive practices revealed in our KGUN9 months-long investigation into the Tucson VA.
"I'm really glad that the Inspector General is doing an investigation. We need to get to the bottom of it," said Kirkpatrick. 
But several past and current employees tell KGUN9 they're skeptical, including former top administrator Pat McCoy, who has blown the whistle on deceptive practices to meet performance measures.
She explains her experiences during Inspector General investigations. "They will often times ask us to sit individually with us, which is fine, but the problem is once you leave the room, leadership is asking you about the content of that investigative questioning, which put the employee in a difficult situation," said McCoy.
And she witnessed VA leadership insisting on sticking close to the investigators during staff interviews. "Staff won't talk really when leadership is in the room," said McCoy.
Four other insiders and whistleblowers they've experienced similar scenarios and share McCoy's concerns.
The Office of Special Counsel, another VA watchdog, is critical of Inspector General investigations. 
A letter sent from the Special Counsell on February 25th to President Obama blasted the Inspector General's Office for failing to investigate recent whistleblower claims at two VA hospitals and instead appeared to intentionally discredit the whistleblowers rather than address their core concerns about care issues and possible cover-ups.
An issue KGUN's Valerie Cavazos raised to Congresswoman Kirpatrick about the Tucson VA.
Cavazos: "Do you think the OIG can investigate this properly?"
Kirkpatrick: "There's congressional oversight of the Inspector General. And so those reports can go to the committee and if they don't think that it's thorough enough. They go back to the Inspector General."
Insiders say they've heard OIG investigators will be at the Tucson VA sometime within the next four weeks.