Government union president Germaine Clarno is stepping up Tuesday to lead Department of Veterans Affairs employees in a protest against VA Secretary Robert McDonald and the Hines facility in Chicago.
Clarno, president of American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) VA Local 781, also serves as a social worker at the facility and has previously blown the whistle on lack of accountability and patient harm.
Part of the impetus for the protest is VA Secretary Robert McDonald’s visit to Chicago. Instead of paying a visit to the deeply troubled Hines facility, McDonald is skipping out and heading to another facility far off the radar. For Clarno, the secretary’s decision to avoid confronting scandal is unacceptable.
“It was like a punch in the gut when we heard VA Secretary McDonald was coming in town and is not planning on visiting Hines,” said AFGE VA Local 781 President Germaine Clarno in a statement. “Our veterans cannot wait any longer for this agency to make meaningful change in access to VA services and the often toxic work environment at VA facilities. The time is now for leaders at the VA to respect the needs of the veterans we serve, and work with the union to improve the processes utilized to deliver world-class care to our nation’s heroes.”
The Day of Action will begin at the main entrance of the Hines facility at 11 a.m. central time for the purpose of bringing attention to the ongoing crisis at the hospital. Activists from the union are coordinating closely with legislators to try and find a solution to the problem of complete lack of accountability at the management level.
One of her most prominent union members is Dr. Lisa Nee, a cardiologist who testified to the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Military Construction and Veterans Affairs on July 30 regarding poor care at the facility and serious whistleblower retaliation for raising the issue with management. She told the committee that doctors in the private sector have been imprisoned for the malfeasance taking place at the facility.
“Hines gets an F still, absolutely,” Nee said after the hearing, according to the Chicago Tribune.
Clarno, as co-founder of the VA Truth Tellers group, has joined forces with the VA is Lying veterans’ advocacy group to recently put up a ‘VA is Lying’ billboard just outside the facility.
During the wait list scandal which hit Phoenix last year, the Hines facility also received considerable scrutiny for related wait list issues. According to Clarno, “Schedules are still being manipulated and the data that the agency puts out is still not reflective of the veteran’s experience.”
An investigation in June confirmed that veterans at the facility received poor care, and inspectors also determined that doctors fiddled with records to increase performance numbers.
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