July 8, 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 VA will restructure the Department’s Office of Medical Inspector (OMI) to better serve Veterans.
“At VA, we depend on VA employees and leaders to put the needs of Veterans first and honor VA’s core values of Integrity, Commitment, Advocacy, Respect, and Excellence,” said Gibson. “Given recent revelations by the Office of Special Counsel, it is clear that we need to restructure the Office of Medical Inspector to create a strong internal audit function which will ensure issues of care quality and patient safety remain at the forefront.”
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.
As long-term restructuring moves forward, the Acting Secretary has directed that immediately, VA will appoint an interim Director of OMI from outside the current office to assist with transition, and VA will suspend OMI’s hotline and refer all hotline calls to Office of Inspector General (OIG).
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.
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.”