Kirk Hearing on Abuse of Local Veterans Gives Voice to Whistleblowers Punished by Leaders at Hines VA

Whistleblowers at Hines are Being Retaliated Against for Reporting Misconduct and Patient Abuse

Kirk Bill Gives Pathway to Protect Veterans, Punish Corrupt Managers

CHICAGO, IL – U.S. Senator Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), Chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Military Construction and Veterans Affairs, today held a field hearing with whistleblowers to detail the ongoing systemic corruption and misconduct at the Edward Hines, Jr. VA Hospital in Illinois. Held at the Everett McKinley Dirksen Federal Courthouse in Chicago, local Illinois whistleblowers Germaine Clarno, President of the AFGE Local 781 at Hines and Dr. Lisa Nee, a former cardiologist at Hines, testified to the retaliation, patient abuse and manipulated scheduling practices they experienced at the hands of VA officials and supervisors. Employees at VA hospitals like Hines are still actively retaliated against when they try question the treatment of veterans.

“If we want to protect our veterans, we have to protect those who care for them.  Veterans around the country have people like Germaine Clarno and Dr. Nee – but threats of retaliation and firing from corrupt managers prevent the change our vets deserve,” said Senator Kirk. “My bill will protect our vets by giving whistleblowers protection and voice.”

Senator Kirk has been working with Germaine Carno and Dr. Nee since May of 2014. A timeline of the Senator’s work to expose this culture of corruption at the VA can be seen here.

Today’s hearing witnesses: 

  • Dr. Lisa Nee, a former cardiologist at the Edward J. Hines, Jr. VA in Maywood, Illinois who experienced retaliation from VA officials after reporting unnecessary surgeries, unread tests and questionable administrative practices. 
  • Germaine Clarno, AFGE Local 781 President and social worker at the Edward J. Hines, Jr. VA, who discovered that schedulers at Hines were routinely manipulating the schedules of more than 1,700 veterans who were waiting for appointments at the hospital.
  • Lydia Dennett, Federal Whistleblower Investigator at the Project on Government Oversight, which works to identify corruption within the federal government. 

Senator Kirk will introduce the VA Patients Protection Act, to force the VA to address reports of abuse and punish the managers who retaliate, ignore and intimidate VA whistleblowers. 

The VA Patients Protection Act

  • Mirrors the Marine Corps Request Mast, where employees can file a complaint to the next level supervisor if the immediate supervisor fails to properly handle their report and claim. 
  • On first offense of retaliation, a supervisor will receive a minimum 12-day suspension.  On second offense, they will be fired.
  • Ties supervisors’ performance ratings to how they respond to and deal with whistleblower reports and complaints.
  • Extends the current Whistleblower Protection Act to include all VA employees – including nurses and doctors, who are currently not protected from retaliation under the law.