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VA Inspector General Issues Subpoena for POGO Whistleblower Records: POGO Says No

The Department of Veterans Affairs’ in-house watchdog has demanded that the Project On Government Oversight turn over all information it has collected related to abuses and mismanagement at VA medical facilities, according to a subpoena delivered to POGO May 30.

The subpoena from the VA Office of Inspector General demands all records POGO has received from current or former VA employees, as well as any other individuals, including veterans. The subpoena asks for records related to “wait times, access to care, and/or patient scheduling issues at the Phoenix, Arizona VA Healthcare System and any other VA medical facility.”

POGO, which has a 33-year history of working with whistleblowers to expose government fraud, waste and abuse, wrote the IG today and refused to provide the records, most of which have come from confidential tips submitted through VAOversight.org.

POGO and the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) launched VAOversight.org on May 15 to offer potential whistleblowers a safe channel to confidentially report abuses in the VA healthcare system, which have been the focus of intense media scrutiny and congressional hearings in recent weeks.

Since the website went live, about 700 people have submitted tips or aired grievances. About 25 percent of those tips have come from current or former VA staffers. POGO is reviewing the information it has received and is looking into many of the claims.

In a letter sent to the IG this morning, POGO said the IG’s subpoena infringes on POGO’s constitutional “freedom of speech, freedom of press, and freedom of association rights as they relate to all whistleblowers and sources.”

Some VA employees who contacted POGO and requested confidentiality said they feared retaliation if their names were divulged. Any of them could have reported their concerns to the VA inspector general. In fact, some of the employees told POGO that they had filed reports with the IG. Some people expressed a lack of confidence in the Office of the Inspector General.

“The Inspector General’s demand stands opposed to POGO’s mission and to good government reform—both of which serve the public interest,” POGO Executive Director Danielle Brian said. “Our focus is squarely on investigating the problems in the VA healthcare system and trying to find some solutions.

“Our mission as a public interest watchdog would be severely damaged if we violated the trust of our sources. We have faced these kinds of threats before and have never wavered. We will not violate the trust whistleblowers have placed in us by revealing their identities to anyone.”

POGO’s letter to the VA IG.

The IG’s subpoena.

By: Joe Newman
Director of Communications, POGO

joe newman Joe Newman is the Director of Communications for the Project On Government Oversight.

Topics: Government Accountability

Related Content: Veterans Affairs, Inspector General Oversight

Authors: Joe Newman

Submitted by KC at: June 17, 2014
I have a question about who or what established the "bonus" system?
Submitted by Kimberly Kimball at: June 16, 2014
Inclusion of Section 1001 in the PATROIT ACT ( October 26, 2001 ) raised the profile of the OIG's [ OIG illegal agreement with Federal Hospital Insurance Service Contract Providers: 1998 http://OIG.hhs.gov/fraud/selfdisclosure.asp 1996 HIPAA violation ] Responsibilities in this area by highlighting a forum for INDIVIDUAL's to raise their claims of CIVIL RIGHTS [ OPM Sec. 900.401, Title VI of the CIVIL RIGHTS ] or civil liberties ABUSE BY Department of Justice Employees: 1999 http://www.JUSTICE.gov/dag/pubdoc/HIPAA00ar21.htm . TITLE 18 > PART I > CHAPTER 13 > § 242. Deprivation of rights under color of law . CONFLICT of INTEREST CRIME -- The OIG has JURISDICTION over all complaints of ( criminal / 1998 http://oig.hhs.gov/fraud/selfdisclosure.asp 1996 HIPAA violation - illegal agreement with the Law enforcement industry to ALLOW Federal Hospital Insurance Fraud _ Patient dumping, which results in physical injury and death of EACH Defrauded United States Citizen / 1999 http://www.JUSTICE.gov/dag/pubdoc/HIPAA00ar21.htm ) misconduct AGAINST Department of Justice employees.
Submitted by Kimberly Kimball at: June 16, 2014
Feel Free to share the documentation I sent you. I always Say who I am. Our VETS are being killed by denial of health care services as well as ALL Federal Health Insurance Beneficiaries. US Attorney General Eric Holder should be arrested and tried for treason as well as Sensenbrenner Judiciary Oversite Allowing Federal Hospital Insurance Fraud resulting in death of United States Citizens / anti trust violation
Submitted by Rub at: June 15, 2014
The VBAand VA collude to suppress claims anyway they can, the deflate the severity and inflate the wellness of the vet such that the vets all look healthy- there should be no claim, they also leave out the fact that while I may look healthy I take 27 medications, huge doses for my heart and the PTSD MEDS they were giving me caused heart damage and pulmonary hypertension. Oh yeah , I almost forgot, they concealed from that I'd had a heart attack of some time not too long ago. Their incentive: bonus bucks for denying an IHD claim.
Submitted by Alix at: June 14, 2014
I'm glad that POGO is not giving in!
Submitted by Sutter Health, CA patient-victim at: June 14, 2014
The VA patient crime exposures is just a microcosm of all medical industry crimes in the USA, (surgical and otherwise), that maim and murder millions of patients in this country and are covered up by Medical Indemnity Companies, Hospital Systems, HMOs, useless political oversight boards and more. Please see the many victims of surgical and medical harm strewn across the internet at various consumer-driven websites. There is NO government enforcement of how human beings are treated once they step into a doctor's office or a hospital or medical clinic. Politicians act as lap dogs to wealthy medical indemnity companies/and rich hospital systems-who bury their crimes against human beings. This HAS to STOP. Thank You POGO!!
Submitted by nobrush at: June 14, 2014
Thank you so much for holding fast with protecting whistleblower rights. It's organizations like yours that give me hope for our country. Our government should not only support your work but applaud it as it is for the best of all society.
Submitted by housecat at: June 14, 2014
It's interesting that the V.A.'S O.I.G is investigating the scandal,when i contacted them about V.A.'S irregularities,they ''blew me off''.I wonder what kind of results us veterans will receive.I think we have a case of ''THE FOX GUARDING THE HENHOUSE''.
Submitted by A Proud American Citizen at: June 10, 2014
Keep it up, guys! DO NOT give in. If you provide the government with the requested confidential information, people will just stop submitting tips. On the other hand, if you fight it publicly, you'll get the public attention you deserve. I've read about you in Ars Technica ("To defeat encryption, feds deploy the subpoena"). Keep it up, for the sake of our country!
Submitted by dub at: June 10, 2014
keep it privet
Submitted by VWFeature at: June 10, 2014
The OIG process is supposedly confidential, but once they or anyone else starts asking questions, it becomes clear that SOMEONE in that area made a report. OIG looks at issues from all sides, but so slowly the target has months or years on salary to move on. The VA response inevitably becomes a legal/political compromise, like criminal 'justice'. It works, just not very well. The real problem with the VA is not corrupt or incompetent individuals, but its structure and operating rules. High functioning health care systems are built on primary care. The VHA is built on medical center subspecialty departments, and they hold the power. Changing VHA structure is essential to real improvement. Getting primary care out from under the Centers, and putting it in charge of managing services would make a huge improvement. Making VA benefits more like an insurance card would force the clinics to compete or close, a good result either way. Example- it took 8 years to get the GI department in LA to allow vets to get screening colonoscopies locally instead of giving guys 12 hours of a powerful laxative, then a suppository, then putting them on a bus for 3 hours down to LA for the colonoscopy. Really. Eight years. And if someone had a polyp 3 years ago, it's now a DIAGNOSTIC colonoscopy and THAT still has to be done in LA. Insanity. But it's good for the GI dept in LA and that's all that counts. Primary care always knew this was insanity. Asking the medical system to 'determine disability' for VBA is a fools game. Far better and cheaper to simply provide dormitory style room & board to anyone who asks, with services for drug/alcohol/psych if desired, but not a requirement for housing. More supportive services for those who need them, with the goal being independence. Stop arguing about who's entitled and concentrate on providing minimum adequate services/housing, NOT cash (to prevent fraud.)
Submitted by CJ at: June 9, 2014
Go POGO! In my experience, federal agencies use such "confidential" reports to go on witch hunts. Why hand over a "hit list?"

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