Politics

Duckworth’s ‘Last-Minute’ Pro-Veteran PR Campaign Interrupted Almost Immediately

REUTERS/Jessica Rinaldi.

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Jonah Bennett Contributor
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As part of her Senate campaign, Democratic Rep. [crscore]Tammy Duckworth[/crscore] met Wednesday with VA Secretary Robert McDonald to address reports of cockroach dinners at the Hines VA facility, but overshadowing her public relations effort is the fact that she has previously ignored whistleblowers from Hines and herself allegedly retaliated against others.

The Duckworth campaign issued a statement Wednesday, saying she secured a commitment from McDonald to “swiftly and comprehensively address allegations of long wait times, substandard care and whistleblower retaliation at the Hines VA Hospital.” The statement also went on promote her as a “steadfast advocate for Veterans.”

Yet Duckworth, who formerly served as head of the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs, has had to struggle with a lawsuit against her alleging retaliation against two VA employees. The lawsuit has continued for seven years now, and the trial date regarding ethics violations is scheduled for August 15, which is several months before the election in November. The allegations span whistleblower retaliation, humiliation and wrongful termination, among other issues.

Although Duckworth demanded Wednesday that the VA solve the problem of veterans being served cockroach-ridden dinners, in the past, she’s praised Hines for excellent service, while simultaneously ignoring whistleblowers mustering serious evidence to the contrary. She’s said she had “the highest regard” for the facility in 2007. During that same year, Duckworth commented on how “great” the Hines center is. She repeated her praise in 2016, noting the “awesome staff”.

But Germaine Clarno, a VA whistleblower who tried to bring her concerns to Duckworth and was subsequently ignored, blasted Duckworth for trotting around her record of serving during election season.

“Rather than publicly support the Hines whistleblowers years ago, Rep. Duckworth ignored and discredited us when we came to her for help with secret wait lists and other veteran abuse at the VA,” Clarno said in a statement. “Now, years later and during an election year, Rep. Duckworth is trying to cover up the fact that she dismissed those who were fighting to protect our nation’s heroes. It is personally offensive to us whistleblowers that she is now trying to take credit for attempting to fix the very complaints she ignored.  This last-minute, politically-motivated effort is too little too late.”

In a March radio interview, whistleblowers Germaine Clarno and Dr. Lisa Nee said that Duckworth basically ignored them when they attempted to raise attention to corruption and poor treatment of veterans, even though they broached the subject with her repeatedly.

“I never felt that [Duckworth] wanted to hear exactly what was going on,” Clarno told NBC Chicago. “I really thought going to Tammy Duckworth, that she would be the one who would stand up and say this has got to stop.”

The campaign for GOP Sen. [crscore]Mark Kirk[/crscore], who is also from Illinois, issued a statement decrying Duckworth’s two-faced treatment of veterans.

“After seven years of stalling and excuses, Rep. Duckworth is now finally scheduled to go to trial where she will have to face the whistleblowers she sought to silence and address the abuse and neglect veterans endured during her term as Director of Veterans’ Affairs,” Kevin Artl, Kirk’s campaign manager, told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “Unfortunately for Illinois citizens, the legacy of Rod Blagojevich continues as yet another Chicago Democrat goes to trial.”

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