OSC protection sought for VA whistleblower

Tuesday - 4/17/2012, 8:34pm EDT

The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) has asked the Office of Special Counsel for protection for a whistleblower at the Department of Veterans Affairs, who they say was unfairly evaluated.

The request relates to the November 2011 Senate testimony of Dr. Michelle Washington, a post-traumatic stress disorder specialist who works for VA in Wilmington, Del. AFGE claims her personnel evaluation was changed and lowered the night before her testimony, in which she said poor staffing and pressure from management to meet arbitrary quotas harmed patient care.

Afterward, Washington's duties were "radically changed," resulting in significant inconvenience for veterans with PTSD, AFGE said.

During her testimony, Washington said she feared retaliation from management, and that several of her colleagues were too afraid to testify.

This comes on the heels of the General Services Administration scandal, which was brought to the inspector general's attention by a whistleblower.

Several bills that would strengthen protection for federal whistleblowers have languished in Congress.

AFGE Assistant General Counsel J. Ward Morrow said union members throughout the federal government worry about retaliation from superiors.

"Dr. Washington's case is a clear example of whistleblower violations and prohibited personnel practices by facility and regional management," Morrow said.

A decision from OSC over whether it would take up Washington's case is expected next week.

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