The number of complaints filed by federal employees at the Office of Special Counsel alleging that management had committed prohibited personnel practices has surged in recent years, driven largely by complaints—especially of retaliation against whistleblowers—against the VA.
The VA, with about 16 percent of the federal workforce, has accounted for 30-35 percent of such complaints since 2014 when the scandal erupted there involving patient scheduling practices, patient care and other management issues, OSC told a hearing of the House Veterans Affairs Committee.
In both 2012 and 2013, for example, OSC received just under 3,000 such complaints, fewer than 700 of them from the VA, but the numbers started climbing in 2014, hitting 3,356 and 993, respectively, and then 4,051 and 1,339 in 2015; the 2016 year-to-date numbers are 3,775 and 1,477.
“OSC currently has 300 active VA whistleblower retaliation cases in locations across the country. In addition, OSC is reviewing the retaliatory conduct of more than a half-dozen VA managers in several facilities for possible disciplinary action,” the agency said.
The number of actions favorable to VA employees in retaliation or other prohibited personnel practice complaints also rose in that time, from 17 in 2012 to 86 in 2015 and 83 so far in 2016.
It noted that many whistleblower retaliation complaints result in settlement agreements between the employee and the agency, with the OSC’s role limited to facilitating discussions. However, such agreements do not preclude the OSC from further investigating the wrongdoing the employee alleged, it added.