A telling sign of the toxic culture at the Department of Veterans Affairs is that when something wrong or just inappropriate is happening, few feel they can speak up and put an end to it. Several whistleblowers in Louisville say that their VA regional director recently acknowledged the candidates in the running for Secretary of the VA and openly criticized them at an all-staff meeting. One whistleblower stood up and informed the director that he’s not allowed to engage in a political discussion in his professional capacity.
Although three employees confirmed the comments made by the director, only one felt comfortable revealing her personal identity. The other two “asked repeatedly that they be kept anonymous, as they are utterly terrified of retaliation.” That statement is completely indicative of the “keep your mouth shut or else” culture that VA officials have created.
VA staff have watched their fellow employees take criticism, put on administrative leave and threatened with they speak out about problems at the VA (e.g., Brandon Coleman). It’s thus not surprising that others choose to protect their personal information.
But the retaliation, or fear of it, needs to stop. Whistleblowers play an important role in holding the VA accountable and they shouldn’t be intimidated into silence out of fear.