- Associated Press - Monday, May 19, 2014

FORT COLLINS, Colo. (AP) - A former worker at a Veterans Affairs clinic in Colorado says she was put on unpaid leave after she refused to falsify appointment records.

Former Navy reservist Lisa Lee told the Coloradoan (https://noconow.co/QXplK9 ) that she and another scheduler were transferred from the Fort Collins clinic in March 2013 for refusing to hide the wait time for appointments. She said she was later suspended for two weeks after filing an internal grievance about the transfer and scheduling practices.

Lee’s complaint led to an investigation that found clinic workers were told to make their records show veterans got appointments within 14 days of the day requested, whether or not it was true. The report was leaked earlier this month.

The Cheyenne VA’s operations are being investigated by the department’s inspector general.

Catherine Gromek, a spokeswoman for the VA’s inspector general’s office, said Monday she could not confirm Lee’s statements.

“We have an obligation to keep people confidential. If they choose to speak to the press, that’s their business,” she said.

VA spokesman Daniel Warvi referred questions about Lee’s allegations to the Office of the Inspector General.

“It is important to allow OIG’s independent and objective review to proceed until completion, and OIG has advised VA against providing information that could potentially compromise their ongoing review,” Warvi said in a statement.

Also this month, a nurse who works for the Cheyenne, Wyoming, VA was put on leave for allegedly sending an email telling employees to falsify appointment records. The Cheyenne VA oversees the Fort Collins clinic, as well as parts of Wyoming and Nebraska.

The email acknowledged the approach was “gaming the system a bit,” but also said the “front office gets very upset” when the 14-day target for appointments isn’t met.

Lee said told the newspaper her grievance was denied, and she was forced to drive almost an hour each way to work in Cheyenne for less pay.

“They had to punish us. They had to make us an example to the other (schedulers),” said Lee, who is now on active duty in Hawaii.

Lee said she filed a whistleblower report with the federal Office of Special Counsel. She said the VA then offered to remove the suspension from her record and pay her for the two lost weeks of work if she dropped her complaint.

But Lee said she wanted to pursue it both out of principle and because she didn’t want to return to the VA.

“Look what I’d be going back to: a snake pit,” she said.


Information from: Fort Collins Coloradoan, https://www.coloradoan.com



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