Whistleblowers from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) held an event Friday in Missouri, urging VA Secretary David Shulkin to save local whistleblower Dr. Dale Klein from being fired, but the VA has not agreed to extend the stay order protecting him.
Top whistleblowers Brandon Coleman, Germaine Clarno and Shea Wilkes traveled from all over the country to show support for Klein by setting up a national press conference on the other side of the street from the John J. Pershing VA medical center in Poplar Bluff, Miss.
Klein also attended the event along with his lawyer, Natalie Khawam.
The Merit Systems Protection Board Stay Order (MSPB) protecting Klein expired as of 5 p.m. Friday, as the VA did not voluntarily agree to the Office of Special Counsel’s request to extend the order, which means it’s likely that the doctor will lose his job after bringing up concerns that patients at the facility in Poplar have not been able to get proper access to care.
Moreover, Klein has warned of overprescription of drugs to patients.
Over the past week, pressure has been mounting on the VA to step in, with GOP Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson introducing a lightning fast bill to change MSPB rules allowing continuation of a stay order in the absence of a quorum. The bill passed in 36 hours, though since the House is not currently in session, it will not move to President Donald Trump’s desk for a signature in time.
Whistleblowers at the Friday event hope that the extra effort to mobilize veterans in support of Klein will persuade Shulkin to intervene and put a stop to the firing.
Forty veterans, including some of Klein’s patients, attended the event located on a busy main street of the town across from the Polar Bluff VA to hear words from Coleman and other whistleblowers, who took turns speaking and answering questions.
The event took place across the street from the VA, as the facility had denied a request for the press conference to occur on the grounds there.
Coleman was recently invited to the White House to witness Trump sign the executive order creating a new Office of Accountability and Whistleblower Protection. He wants Shulkin to honor the spirit of that executive order.
“We said what we needed to say, that Secretary Shulkin could fix this issue with the flip of his pen if he wanted to,” Coleman told The Daily Caller News Foundation.
“I wish other whistleblowers had been able to do this for me long ago, so I was honored to have been asked to come here,” Coleman continued. “It’s the hundreds of whistleblowers that nobody has ever heard of that every time we get something like this going–it’s important to point out because there are so many no one ever knows about.”
There was no word from the Poplar Bluff VA during the protest, aside from a staff-wide email obtained by TheDCNF, in which medical center director Patricia L. Hall emphasized the importance of creating an environment conducive to whistleblowing, so that the facility can offer better care to veterans.
For Khawam and others, those words ring hollow.
“Let’s call out the elephant in the room here,” Khawam told TheDCNF. “The hypocrisy–you say we support whistleblowing and yet you’re the same organization that has tried to terminate him. Are you pro-whistleblower or are you terminating the whistleblower? You can’t just say something and do the opposite. It’s such a deep contradiction.”
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