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VA office in charge of protecting whistleblowers from retaliation is under investigation... for retaliating on whistleblowers
The Department of Veterans Affairs office created to protect whistleblowers from retaliation is itself under investigation for — wait for it, wait for it — retaliation against whistleblowers.
According to Eric Katz of Government Executive, the nascent Office of Accountability and Whistleblower Protection has come under investigation by the VA Inspector General by employees who feel "betrayed or neglected by an office they believed was going to help them but ended up doing the opposite."
Established by President Donald Trump through an executive order in April 2017, the Washington, D.C-based OAWP serves to "improve the performance and accountability of VA senior executives and employees" by investigating allegations and concerns sent in by whistleblowers, according to its website.
"Additionally, OAWP provides the protection of valued VA whistleblowers against retaliation for their disclosures."
Except, apparently, when they don't.
Here's Government Executive:
Dan Martin, a chief engineer at VA's Northern Indiana Health Care System, said OAWP failed to protect him when his case came before it. Martin said in 2016 he discovered contracting violations related to a non-functioning water filtration system, but when he reported the problems to superiors he was stripped of his responsibilities and sent to work in an office without heat or air conditioning. The VA inspector general launched an investigation into the contracting practices, and asked Martin to surreptitiously record conversations with procurement officers, Martin said.
It was not until OAWP got involved in the case that Martin's supervisors became aware of that cooperation. When OAWP allegedly shared that information with leadership at his facility, Martin said his supervisors "had no choice but to shut me down" so he could no longer send recordings about the supervisors' "very inappropriate relationships with contractors" to investigators in the OIG.
Although the stories among VA employees shared with Government Executive don't seem to show OAWP directly retaliating against whistleblowers, its apparent practice of sharing the names of who's talking to them with the the people most likely to get in trouble if a whistleblower claim is substantiated seems, uh, well, not so good.
According to a July 2018 Government Accountability Office report, in some cases the actual VA program offices or facilities where a whistleblower reported misconduct was the same office doing the investigation. Which isn't a conflict of interest or anything.
That practice has since been stopped, VA spokesman Curt Cashour told Government Executive.
In a statement to Task & Purpose, Cashour said VA "welcomes the inspector general's oversight, and for the last several months we've been cooperating closely with the IG on its assessment and encouraging the office to release its report as soon as possible."
While Cashour could not comment on specific complaints from the current and former employees — saying they had not provided written consent for him to do so — he added, "we had hoped to receive the IG's report on this assessment in January, when VA Assistant Secretary for Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Dr. Tamara Bonzanto was sworn in so she could use it as a roadmap to ensure OAWP is operating exactly as Congress intended and with maximum efficiency.
Without the benefit of the IG's recommendations, however, Dr. Bonzanto has been assessing OAWP's performance and has been working on a number of key improvements to ensure the office is complying with Congress' intent. These include providing timelier resolutions, more responsive recommendations and enhancing communications with whistleblowers."
Former Marine Commandant tells Trump that pardoning troops accused of war crimes 'relinquishes the moral high ground'
Former Marine Commandant Gen. Charles Krulak has issued a statement urging President Donald Trump and members of Congress to oppose pardons for those accused or convicted of war crimes since, he argued, it would "relinquish the United States' moral high ground."
"If President Trump follows through on reports that he will mark Memorial Day by pardoning individuals accused or convicted of war crimes, he will betray these ideals and undermine decades of precedent in American military justice that has contributed to making our country's fighting forces the envy of the world," said Krulak, who served in the Marine Corps for more than three decades before retiring in 1999 as the 31st Commandant.
Editor's Note: The following story highlights a veteran at Associated Materials. Committed to including talented members of the military community in its workplace, Associated Materials Incorporated is a client of Hirepurpose, a Task & Purpose sister company. Learn more here.
Associated Materials, a residential and commercial siding and window manufacturer based in Ohio, employs people from a variety of backgrounds. The company gives them an opportunity to work hard and grow within the organization. For Tim Betsinger, Elizabeth Dennis, and Tanika Carroll, all military veterans with wide-ranging experience, Associated Materials has provided a work environment similar to the military and a company culture that feels more like family than work.
President Donald Trump will nominate Barbara Barrett to serve as the next Air Force secretary, the president announced on Tuesday.
"I am pleased to announce my nomination of Barbara Barrett of Arizona, and former Chairman of the Aerospace Corporation, to be the next Secretary of the Air Force," Trump tweeted. "She will be an outstanding Secretary! #FlyFightWin"
The Trump administration is trying to assure Congress that it does not want to start a war with Iran, but some lawmakers who fought in Iraq are not so sure.
Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford both briefed Congress on Tuesday about Iran. Shanahan told reporters earlier on Tuesday that the U.S. military buildup in the region has stopped Iran and its proxies from attacking U.S. forces, but the crisis is not yet over.
"We've put on hold the potential for attacks on Americans," Shanahan said. "That doesn't mean that the threats that we've previously identified have gone away. Our prudent response, I think, has given the Iranians time to recalculate. I think our response was a measure of our will and our resolve that we will protect our people and our interests in the region."
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Donald Trump warned on Monday Iran would be met with "great force" if it attacked U.S. interests in the Middle East, and government sources said Washington strongly suspects Shi'ite militias with ties to Tehran were behind a rocket attack in Baghdad's Green Zone.
"I think Iran would be making a very big mistake if they did anything," Trump told reporters as he left the White House on Monday evening for an event in Pennsylvania. "If they do something, it will be met with great force but we have no indication that they will."