VA Whistleblower gets slighted by Wisconsin Senator
Whistleblowers have played a major role in exposing misconduct and illegal activity throughout the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). In Phoenix, Brandon Coleman alerted the public to suicidal veterans being allowed to leave the Phoenix VA emergency room. Dr. Sam Foote also blew the whistle in Phoenix on manipulated wait times and patient deaths while waiting for appointments. Ryan Honl came forward about quality of care concerns in the Tomah, Wisconsin VA — specifically relating to the over-prescribing of narcotics at the facility.
Despite putting the welfare of veterans before the bureaucracy, or maybe because of it, whistleblowers at the VA have often been met with intimidation and disdain. Ryan Honl is no exception. After exposing mass over-prescribing of opioids at the facility that resulted in the death of veteran, Honl was allegedly “stripped of his duties and locked out of his office” for that disclosure. The situation was rectified by action from the Office of Special Counsel, but that doesn’t mean Honl’s representatives in Washington have forgotten being called out.
While visiting Washington, DC recently, Honl visited a bipartisan list of Wisconsin lawmakers’ offices including Rep. Sean Duffy, Rep. Ron Kind, Sen. Ron Johnson and Sen. Tammy Baldwin. Those visits were not all well-received, according to Honl. While the offices of Duffy, Kind and Johnson were receptive to Honl, Senator Baldwin’s office provided only a phone call with a staff member. He wasn’t able to meet with any staffer in person and said about the phone call “he could have done that from Wisconsin.”
Sen. Baldwin has been at the center of attention in the Tomah, VA scandal. Reports emerged that Baldwin’s office had an inspection report on opioid prescription practices at the facility and did nothing with the report for months after receiving it. Ryan Honl found out she had a copy of the report several months after her office received it, and demanded that she call for an investigation.
Tomah’s VA is on par with Phoenix when it comes to scandal and botched management. Inaction by lawmakers contributes to the toxic culture that drives scandal in these facilities in the first place. While ensuring that VA employees have accountability for their actions, special attention should be paid to the inaction of lawmakers in protecting the veterans in their states.