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Currently the Department of Veterans’ Affairs is negotiating a labor contract with the American Federation of Government Employees. The VA is demanding the removal of whistleblower protection for VA employees.

As a registered nurse, I worked in two VA hospitals. In one, an assistant hospital administrator had sex repeatedly with a subordinate in a closed patient care unit; thereafter, both the subordinate and her husband received a promotion and a raise. In another, a head nurse ignored a registered nurse’s theft from patients. Both infractions were reported to the inspector general by front-line employees. In both cases the inspector general investigated.

Removing whistleblower protection from VA employees is problematic because often employees are the ones who see misbehavior and crime, and sometimes it is administration that refuses to deal with these events. Without whistleblower protection, employees will decline to report incidents out of fear of retaliation and job loss.

Professional VA employees (nurses, therapists, pharmacists, etc.) can practice in federal facilities with a valid license from any state or territory. Some states specifically require in their state laws regulating these practices that health care professionals advocate for patients. If the VA removes whistleblower protection, professional employees could be punished by the VA for blowing the whistle and by state licensing boards for not blowing the whistle. This situation certainly will not help the VA recruit the professional staff it needs.

The VA must drop its demand to remove whistleblower protection from labor contracts.

Patricia Malinee

Bettendorf

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