Why You Need a Lawyer – New Evidence Suggests that the VA retaliates Against Whistleblowers
By Rawls McNelis + Mitchell on April 17, 2015
In one of the most shocking revelations that have come out of the recent string of developments casting light on just how troubling the VA medical system can be, new evidence has surfaced that VA officials retaliate against whistleblowers by illegally accessing their medical records, harassing them, and threatening them. This evidence surfaced through the testimony of Special Counsel Carolyn Lerner which she made to the House VA subcommittee earlier this week. Reports indicate that Lerner testified that examples of retaliation by VA leadership included accessing medical records to discredit the whistleblower and even threatening reduction of a whistleblower’s disability rating (which would have the impact of lowering the veteran’s disability benefits payment). I am not a conspiracy theorist by any stretch of the imagination. Moreover, I also appreciate the concept that not everything in government can be transparent to the public. However, we are not talking about matters of national security here. We are talking about individuals who have honorably served their country that are mistreated by the VA healthcare system and need help, but cannot get it despite being entitled to it. Many of these individuals are already struggling to have a voice in society and the VA is attempting to silence them even more on a matter of paramount importance—their health. Where did things go so wrong? I admire the bravery of every veteran who has attempted to bring to light the deficiencies in the VA heathcare system. As we now have good reason to suspect, such efforts are not without risk of retaliation. The privacy issues alone that are raised by illegally accessing a patient’s health records for coercive purposes causes me grave concern about the lack of moral conviction within VA leadership. This concern is only overshadowed by the greater concern that there is a clear priority of concealing improper care, at least in some facilities. If the VA is willing to go this far to hide its wrongdoing from the eyes of the public, what wouldn’t it do? Are things such as falsifying, altering, or destroying medical records all that difficult to imagine? Nothing sickens me more than the thought of a veteran being mistreated, the VA covering the situation up, and then pretending that the veteran is mentally unstable and the mistreatment is just a fiction that exists solely in the veteran’s troubled mind. In my old battalion, our motto was “Mission First, Men Always.” Even years after my time in combat, I still ponder the phrase and its meaning. Truth be told, I still have not fully sorted it out. However, I know this, a mission without soldiers is always doomed to fail. As a veteran, my mission now is to ensure that my brothers and sisters who also wore the uniform (and who still do) are given that which is owed to them for their honorable service to our country. I put that mission first, always trying to keep in mind there are real people who are really suffering in each of my cases and, if I cannot help them, they have nowhere left to turn. However, that battle is frankly an easy one for me to fight with the safety net of financial independence in place. I’m not reliant on VA benefits to obtain healthcare or pay for groceries. The real soldiers in this mission are the veterans who depend on the VA to have the basic necessities of life and who nonetheless step out to bring to light the deficiencies in the VA healthcare system in hopes of a better life and that others may be spared similar misfortune in the future. We are a law firm committed to seeing justice done for veterans. Founded by veterans and committed to them, we understand the difference between a job and a mission, and seeking justice for veterans is our mission. But that mission can only succeed if the soldiers with eyes and ears on the ground step out and tell us where we can help. For this reason, I sincerely hope and pray that if you or someone you know is being mistreated through the military or VA healthcare systems that you will call us and let us try and help you. We all have a role to play in the mission of improving the VA and military healthcare systems. Mission first, veterans always.