July 10, 2014
WASHINGTON – In response to the Office of Special Counsel’s recent recommendations for the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), Acting Secretary of Veterans Affairs Sloan Gibson today announced that Gerard R. Cox, MD, MHA will serve as Interim Director of the Office of Medical Inspector (OMI).
“In response to the revelations by the Office of Special Counsel, we need new leadership and a fresh look from outside of OMI to assist in this transition,” said Gibson. “I expect Dr. Cox to help us restructure OMI to better serve Veterans and create a strong internal audit function, which will ensure issues of care quality and patient safety remain at the forefront.”
Dr. Cox was appointed Assistant Deputy Under Secretary for Health for Policy and Services for the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) in January 2014. Prior to joining VA, Dr. Cox served as a U.S. Navy medical officer for more than 30 years. Dr. Cox is a Veteran of the Persian Gulf War, during which he was deployed to a Fleet Hospital in Saudi Arabia (1990-1991). He later oversaw Navy expeditionary health services throughout the Middle East, both ashore and afloat, while serving concurrently as Force Surgeon, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command and Fleet Surgeon, U.S. Fifth Fleet (2010-2012). In addition to other senior leadership positions, Dr. Cox also served as Assistant Inspector General of the Navy for Medical Matters.
On June 23, 2014, the Office of Special Counsel sent a letter to President Obama regarding VA whistleblowers. Following the letter, Acting Secretary Gibson directed an immediate review and subsequent briefing of OMI’s operation, process, and structure. As a result of the briefing, the Acting Secretary determined a clear need to revise the policies, procedures, and personnel structure by which OMI operates, and has directed a restructuring of the organization. With the June 30 retirement of the individual who has served as the Medical Inspector of the Veterans Health Administration for more than a decade, this restructuring will occur with the input of the team of individuals that the Secretary has brought to VA to assist in addressing systemic issues and rebuilding Veteran trust.
As long-term restructuring moves forward, the Acting Secretary has directed VA will immediately suspend OMI’s hotline and refer all hotline calls to Office of Inspector General (OIG).
On June 13, 2014, Acting Secretary Gibson sent a message to all VA employees regarding the importance of whistleblower protection and has met with employees at VA Medical Centers across the country to reemphasize that message.
“As I told our workforce, intimidation or retaliation – not just against whistleblowers, but against any employee who raises a hand to identify a problem, make a suggestion, or report what may be a violation in law, policy, or our core values – is absolutely unacceptable. I will not tolerate it in our organization.”