U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill met this week with the nominee to serve as the next Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), Robert McDonald, to discuss how best to reform the VA following recent reports of misconduct at facilities across the country, while ensuring whistleblowers who report concerns are protected from retaliation.
"I'm encouraged by my talk with Robert McDonald," said McCaskill, the daughter of World War II veteran and senior member of the Armed Services Committee. "He has a lot of work ahead of him, but I believe his experience will be important to tackling many of the problems at the VA that have come to light. I stand ready to provide whatever assistance I can in restoring our veterans' confidence in the VA system."
As Chairman of the Subcommittee on Financial & Contracting Oversight, McCaskill recently introduced legislation that would mandate the firing of any VA employee found to have retaliated against a whistleblower. Currently, a finding of retaliation against a whistleblower is punishable by a range of actions, including fines and reprimand.
McCaskill also introduced legislation with Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) to take back bonuses paid to employees at the VA who were involved in the manipulation of electronic waitlists. The legislation requires VA employees who received bonuses in 2011 or later to repay those bonuses if they contributed to a deliberate omission from an electronic wait list the names of veterans waiting for health care. The employee's superiors are also required to pay back bonuses if they knew, or reasonably should have known, of their subordinates' purposeful omission of the names of veterans from electronic waitlists.
McCaskill previously called for swift action and requested additional information from the Office of Special Counsel on its investigation of whistleblower retaliation by Veterans Affairs employees. That office is currently investigating nearly 60 cases of whistleblower retaliation at the VA.