VA Scandal: Report points to employee bullying, sexual harassment

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Phoenix, AZ (KPHO) – The Veterans Administration Inspector general report detailing problems with patient care at the Phoenix VA Medical Center also reveals a shocking twist to the story.

The final item addressed in the executive summary of the report addressed an issue separate from the wait time issue plaguing local veterans.

The report indicates that OIG staff both in person and through a complaint hotline received:

“numerous allegations of daily mismanagement, inappropriate hiring decisions, sexual harassment, and bullying behavior by mid- and senior-level managers at this facility.”

Whistle blower and now retired VA doctor Sam Foote brought the alleged secret waiting list to the forefront of attention. He says, though, that is only one part of the problem.

“There’s a lot of ex Phoenix staff who are now up in Prescott, providers and administrators who went up there to escape the oppression of Phoenix,” said Dr Foote. “You even ask a question you are liable to get fired.”

That so-called oppression inside the Phoenix VA Medical Center was documented in a letter last year to VA Secretary Eric Shinseki by human resources consultant Roger French.

French has defended and advised nearly forty Phoenix VA Medical Center workers who have brought forth employment, or EEO complaints.

French, in his letter to Secretary Shinseki wrote:

“I never seen the hostility, cavalier violations of regulations and laws, the lack of dignity and respect for employees, nor have I seen the total lack of common sense in a single facility as I have observed at the VAMC Phoenix, AZ”

Regional VA director Susan Bowers was asked by CBS5 about employee turnover last week. There are 300 open positions at the VA right now.

“There have been a lot of changes at the Phoenix VA. And I think a lot of people have left to accommodate those changes. We have moved to a system where we look at performance improvement and we look at productivity,” said Bowers.

French tells CBS5 he has been “inundated” with employee complaint cases originating here in Phoenix.

He and Dr. Foote both believe other top level managers at the Phoenix VA Medical Center need to be shown the door before things will begin to improve.

By Adam Longo

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