A team of investigators from the Veterans Affairs Office of the Medical Inspector will visit the Roseburg Veterans Affairs Medical Center and the Roseburg VA’s Eugene clinic next week.

The VA agreed to send the investigators following pressure from U.S. Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Springfield. DeFazio testified before Congress two weeks ago that whistle-blowers continue to face retaliation at the VA.

According to a spokeswoman for DeFazio, the investigators will be looking into a range of issues, including medical care, personnel issues and retaliation. The investigators want to talk to any staff members who have concerns, and have told DeFazio they will listen objectively and maintain the anonymity of those who meet with them.

For any staff members who don’t feel comfortable going through official channels at the VA, DeFazio’s office will facilitate a way for people to speak to investigators while protecting their identity. Contact DeFazio’s Eugene office at 541-465-6732, or call toll free, 800-944-9603.

The Roseburg VA was in the news two weeks ago, after DeFazio made the VA’s firing of Eugene surgeon Scott Russi the centerpiece of testimony in favor of the Dr. Chris Kirkpatrick Whistleblower Protection Act of 2017. Nationwide, the VA has the largest percentage — 35 percent — of such complaints of any federal agency. DeFazio has said he believes the culture of the VA needs to change at the management level.

The act outlines mandatory punishments for supervisors who retaliate against whistle-blowers. On the first offense, they are to be suspended for at least three days. On the second, they’re fired.

The Roseburg VA has said it fully supports the whistle-blower act.

Reporter Carisa Cegavske can be reached at 541-957-4213 or ccegavske@nrtoday.com.

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Senior Reporter

Carisa Cegavske is the senior reporter for The News-Review. She can be reached at 541-957-4213 or by email at ccegavske@nrtoday.com. Follow her on Twitter @carisa_cegavske

(19) comments

just me

it is not how it works, it is how it looks

RoloToomasi

This investigation will be nothing more than a dog and pony show. There will be no out come. There will be no resolve. Committees will be formed that will include employees to better the workplace. Managers will be moved to different departments, or, allowed to telecommute from home. DeFazio will save face with his voting veterans. Things will quiet down for about 3 to 6 months and then it will return to business as usual. I have seen it time and time again working here over the years.

Oh, the things that I have witnessed here would curls one's toes. The scandals, the back stabbing and all of the hush money paid by the Roseburg VA in settlements to employees. These are things that I have also seen in the private sector. A work place is a work place. The larger it is, the worse it is.

I remained on board through the years by being an optimist, knowing and hoping that things would get better, and just when things did start to get better, the happy train would plummet over a cliff. Now, I just keep my head down, my mouth shut and avoid conflict. The best course of action until retirement.

Initially when I began employment here, the problem at the Roseburg VA was the "Good Ole' Boy" network that had been emplaced from years back. Since the majority of them have now retired, it's just bad leadership with poor decision making skills. The following is a statement made by a previous head of HR, "Veterans, we may have to hire them, but we don't have to promote them". That, speaks volumes.

So to my fellow employees at the Roseburg VA, either suck it up and work here until you can retire, or go find a job some place else.

MJM

You are part of the problem, and offer nothing to the solution. Please do not take offense, but until people stand up en masse, you are right, nothing will change.

Not It

Easier said than done. There is such a sense of fear running around that place. Not a lot of jobs around Roseburg to equal the pay/benefits provided by federal employment. People have families to care for and mouths to feed. It's not as easy to speak up as it seems. Trust me. Management is well aware of the issues and Paxton promises to fix them. He hasn't. Where there is smoke, there is fire and Paxton can't continually put his head in the sand and still call himself a leader and "for the Veterans". How he has the veterans in this community so snowed still is beyond me. It takes more than talking the talk. You gotta walk the walk too. He'll tell you these things "take time". It's been +3 years and the wonderful veterans of this community have lost their access to some really great providers all to keep a couple of bad ones.

MJM

I know all about the fear. I worked at the VA for 25 months, and resigned after Paxton told me to quit. He would not help me with the ongoing harassment/sexual harassment I was expected to tolerate in order to keep good pay and benefits. I weighed it out, and I would rather live in a dumpster than stay for all the benefits at that cost.

MJM

Also, I am a veteran, and I have a degree. None of that matters to a Despot.

OSCMD

By the way, it is safe to assume that VA employees have not been told by the VA about the investigators. There are some who have contacted me asking about how to proceed as they want to talk to them but don't know the process. If I'm wrong, I stand corrected, but why are employees asking me how to get a hold of investigators. Just saying....

Trumpqua

We're going directly to De Fazio. That's what you should be advising.
"For any staff members who don’t feel comfortable going through official channels at the VA, DeFazio’s office will facilitate a way for people to speak to investigators while protecting their identity. Contact DeFazio’s Eugene office at 541-465-6732, or call toll free, 800-944-9603."

RoloToomasi

Yes. It's very safe to say. Had I not seen the headline in the paper, I never would have known.

OSCMD

I was a dedicated VA Roseburg employee. During my tenure, I witnessed many things. Employees having sex in bathrooms, an employee hiding third party checks causing lost revenue, employees sleeping at their desks and in the lobby, and an employee hiding congressionals resulting in serious delays to Veteran concerns. I have experienced discrimination and retaliation for EEO activity and Whistleblowing. I have had awards and recognition withheld from me as a result. I witnessed firsthand violations of many different levels, and ultimately had my career brought to a screeching halt because of employees who were allowed to lie. This is not a "High Reliability Organization " as those who really need to be held accountable are not. The VA might be allowing investigators on campus to interview employees. You tell me, how many current employees do you think will come forward? Few and far between folks. No one wants to be retaliated against. We, the former employees who have been retaliated against, will not be able to speak to these investigators. What is the purpose? It is a mere maneuver to show that something is being done, when in fact nothing will be done. Not without talking to the people who have experienced the retaliation and have been at the brunt of corruption here at the Roseburg VA.

MJM

This comment is from another story about this same issue.

BobKSMinion
50 minutes ago
As a whistleblower who has met with the Office of Medical Investigaton twice, my only advice to employees at this VA would be to stay as far away as possible. Unfortunately, as a VA employee, if they request to speak to you, you will have to report to their witch hunt. If you bring representation, it only serves to anger them and they will not allow anyone but the employee speak. Call in sick or crash into a tree on you way to work. It's better than facing these wolves.
I brought forward issues at the VAMC where I work, and now I am being investigated. OMI is a joke. They work with VA leadership an VA OIG to remove anyone who strays from the standard party line.
I also called Rep. DeFazio's office today and suggested that he talk to the Senators in my state. OMI is whitewashing the substandard care that has been provided to our Veterans.
I wish you all good luck in your interviews. You will need it.

Trumpqua

Are you going to call De Fazio? You have relevant information. Complaining and doing nothing, solves nothing.

Laura Lee

It’s true. Only current employees will be permitted to speak to the investigators. I assume an exception is being made for Dr. Russi.

Why are those who, within the last 18 months, have been bullied and retaliated against, and subsequently terminated or forced to resign under duress, not being given a voice?

Why are their voices being silenced? Are they deemed “not as important?”

Some have literally been fighting for 18 months - sending letters, making phone calls, and it all fell on deaf ears. Dr. Russi is the catalyst for change, but don’t dismiss the rest of us who have been going through the same thing, for a very LONG time.

RoloToomasi

Interesting, to say the least.

MJM

Below is a FB conversation between three people that used to work at the VA:

I just called about talking to someone. A Dr. Skovelli (sp) is conducting the interviews on Monday and Tuesday.

So? What do we do?

Seriously?!?!?!
Tell them this is an ongoing problem. It didn’t just happen.
They need to hear everyone’s story.

Yep. That was her final answer

Oh. My. Gosh. That is seriously wrong!!!!!!

I guess the only reason I’m being heard is because I’m in a LWOP status.

You should contact the reporter!!
If that were true then how could they talk to dr. Russi?!?!?!?!

So now we know. The investigation is going to be done at VA facilities, by a VA entity, for present VA employees only. What are the chances that anyone will show up with the current administration's record of retaliation. What a joke.

MJM

I, as a veteran and a former employee of the Roseburg VA, am ecstatic to see this article, and know that something is finally happening. I question that it is an arm of the VA that is investigating. Having worked for the VA, I know empirically how they work. My question is what about previous employees that were illegally fired, or resigned because of abuse, or neglect? HR should also be held accountable in all of this because they were just as inept and abusive as Doug Paxton and his administration. People have no idea how abusive, destructive, and horrible it is. Doug Paxton is brushing all of this off to the present staff like it is just "bad press" for him.

I resigned because I was being sexually harassed, harassed, intimidated, and bullied by my veteran coworkers and managers. When there is a bully in the Director's position, evil flourishes across the board, and it did. I so hope something is really done about all of this. There are so many more people than Dr. Russi. He was just the topper. There are over 50 people that have been fired, or resigned because of abuse, under Doug Paxton. The man is a despotic megalomaniac. I am one of those people. What about us?

Trumpqua

My wife works at the VA and management is a significant problem. They care more about protecting their fiefdoms than veterans or employees. It sucks to be an employee at the Roseburg VA.
You should call De Fazio's office. I have, they are responsive on issues related to the Roseburg VA, but their hands were tied, but not anymore.

MJM

I filed a complaint with the Office of Special Counsel (OSC), I emailed Bob McDonald twice, I wrote President Trump twice, I contacted VA EEO twice, I have emailed DeFazio twice, and I left a voicemail message at his office. I am sad to say that it took Dr. Russi, a renowned surgeon, to finally get some attention concerning this issue. This has been going on since Paxton was hired in 2015. It is now 2017. There are so many families that have been damaged by this man and his administration. Unfortunately the VA does not care one bit about hurting people. There is no grace, kindness, or empathy at all. It is sickening. A hospital is an institution of healing. The VA is an institution of harm. Yes, there are those that really do care there, but they know to not speak out if they do not want to become targets like those of us that have the courage to. The fear is palpable when one works there. I walked into a job that had previously had 2 people both leave my position in less than a year because of abuse. Nothing was done by HR to fix the problem. I know because I spoke to my fellow veteran that had the position before me, and he experienced the same abuse. They hired me, the same thing happened, and then they target and blame the victim. When I tried to get help from my supervisor she told me that I needed mental health counseling. I was the problem at that point. Not her friends that were targeting, harassing, sexually harassing, and bullying me. It is a sick, sick place. In essence what happens is the abusers created a network to support and protect one another's bad behavior. Just like the VA is supporting, and protecting, Doug Paxton and Ranjan. They will go down kicking and screaming before they admit any culpability.

OSCMD

They don't care. Been there, done that.

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