Illinois is home to more than 700,000 men and women who have served our
country in a military uniform. Throughout the state we entrust five Department
of Veterans Affairs hospitals and 27 clinics with the task of caring for our
veterans. But when the VA falls short of that goal, it's our job to protect both
our nation's heroes and the whistleblowers who speak up to defend them.
As chairman of the subcommittee that oversees federal funding for the VA, I
have no tolerance for misconduct, patient neglect or retaliation against
whistleblowers at our VA hospitals and clinics. On July 30, I marked National
Whistleblower Appreciation Day by thanking whistleblowers from Illinois and
around the country who have courageously spoken up to expose corruption and
The occasion also was an opportunity to further investigate whistleblower
claims of veteran abuse and the retaliation faced after reporting these
allegations. At a hearing of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Military
Construction and Veterans Affairs, we heard testimony about the dark side of VA
hospital care from Dr. Katherine Mitchell, the former medical Director for the
Iraq and Afghanistan Post-Deployment Center and the whistleblower who exposed
the Phoenix, Arizona, VA scandal that led to the resignation of Secretary Eric
We also heard testimony from Dr. Lisa Nee, a former cardiologist at the
Edward J. Hines, Jr., VA in Maywood, who experienced retaliation from VA
officials after reporting unnecessary surgeries, boxes of unread medical tests
and questionable administrative practices at Hines.
Dr. Nee testified that she was given numerous bankers boxes full of unread
echocardiograms, representing what she estimated to be hundreds of veterans,
many of whom "had already died from or suffered cardiac complications after the
study was performed but prior to it being interpreted."
The fact that doctors and leadership at Hines knew of this misconduct and
covered it up is disturbing, and the American people will not stand to have our
heroes treated as second-class citizens.
Reports of patient abuse, manipulated wait times and whistleblower
retaliation are rampant at Hines here in Illinois and at VA hospitals across the
country. Our nation's heroes deserve better than mistreatment and neglect at the
hospitals and clinics whose mission is to provide them quality care.
After speaking with Dr. Mitchell, Dr. Nee and other whistleblowers, it became
clear to me that not only are our veterans subject to abuse, but the nurses and
doctors who sound the alarm on misconduct currently have inadequate protection
from performance-based retaliation under the law. So I authored legislation,
which has already passed through the Appropriations Committee, that funds
veterans' care at record levels and protects whistleblowers by encouraging them
to speak out against instances of corruption or neglect.
The bill closes a loophole in the Whistleblower Protection Act by prohibiting
retaliation against VA healthcare providers through performance reports.
I also recently launched a VA Whistleblower Hotline for veterans and
employees who witness poor care, mismanagement or misconduct by VA staff and
officials. Those who witness corruption can contact my staff by phone at
(773) 431-4099 or by email at email@example.com.
As Americans, we must take care of our veterans and protect the
whistleblowers who speak up when our veterans are mistreated. By identifying
misconduct early and investigating allegations aggressively, we can help ensure
that all of our nation's heroes are provided the quality care that they so
rightly deserve. Notice: If you wish to stop ALL electronic
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