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The VA Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act of 2017 is a law that was passed by the United States Congress to improve accountability and whistleblower protection within the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Prior to passage of this act,it was whistleblowers who helped expose the nationwide scandal over long waits for care. Beginning in 2014, VA medical facilities across the country were found to have covered up delays in providing care, making waits as long as four months appear much shorter.

The law created a new Office of Accountability and Whistleblower Protection (OAWP) within the VA, which is responsible for investigating allegations of misconduct and retaliation against whistleblowers. The law also expanded the definition of protected disclosures to include allegations of gross mismanagement, gross waste of funds, and abuse of authority.

Following passage of the Act, members of Congress asked the Office of the Inspector General to determine the success or failure of the VA in implementing this Act. The OIG reported in October 2019 that implementation was not successful.  For example it said that “A critical purpose of the Act was to facilitate holding Covered Executives accountable for misconduct and poor performance. However, as of May 22, 2019, the Inspector General determined that VA had removed only one Covered Executive from federal service pursuant to the authority provided by the Act.”

And it does not seem that things have gotten much better since the 2019 OIG report. Earlier this year Rep. Jay Obernolte (R-Calif.) issued a press release stating that the VA informed him that “it will no longer use the tools provided by the bipartisan VA Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act, which was signed into law in 2017″ citing that this was “because the Biden administration paused the use of the law.

His consternation at the time of this press release was his request for “answers on a situation at the Loma Linda VA Medical Center (VAMC) where a supervisory employee continues to be employed by the medical center despite creating a hostile work environment, ultimately reducing accountability, impacting employee morale, and hindering the good delivery of services to veterans.”

Also last April 2023, U.S. Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Steve Daines (R-MT) sent a letter bashing U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Denis McDonough for announcing the VA will ignore important provisions of the VA Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act that require the agency to hold bad employees accountable.

The Government Executive website confirmed the VA decision to discontinue use of the Act starting April 3. It claims the reason was that the “Federal Labor Relations Authority found VA violated its collective bargaining agreement with the American Federation of Government Employees when it eliminated ‘performance improvement plans’ from the pre-disciplinary process. The decision required VA to reinstate all employees fired without first being provided such a plan, a process McDonough told members of Congress on Thursday is currently under negotiation.”

And the situation at Loma Linda VA is discussed in detail by a news story published on June 18 by According to it’s report, several VA Loma Linda Healthcare System whistleblowers have come forward with new allegations of retaliation, harassment and hostile working conditions amid a widening investigation by the House Veterans Affairs Committee.

Last Friday, committee member Jay Obernolte, met behind closed doors with VA Loma Linda’s interim director Bryan Arnette, and other officials to discuss the whistleblower complaints and map out needed changes.

“Sometimes in federal government – we can create a workplace environment that is tolerant of people that don’t follow the rules,” Obernolte said during a press briefing following the meetings without offering specific details about what was discussed. “We want to make sure that doesn’t occur.”

Separately, staff members from the House Veterans Affairs Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations met with whistleblowers at an undisclosed location to review their complaints that suggest systematic failures by the federal government to address problems at VA Loma Linda. Obernolte declined to disclose the specific nature of the confidential whistleblower allegations

Obernolte’s visit follows a Southern California News Group report in May that revealed a 2021 federal investigation found that a VA Loma Linda manager frequently used racial slurs, required workers to buy him food and drive him to and from work, and then punished those who refused his demands with bad assignments.However, instead of being terminated for creating a hostile work environment, the manager – identified by multiple sources as grounds department supervisor Martin Robles – was inexplicably promoted.

There were numerous instances where inappropriate language and racial slurs were used which appears to be a common practice,” a Veterans Administration investigative board said in a heavily redacted 61-page report obtained by the Southern California News Group. “Inappropriate and discriminatory hiring practices were found, which have contributed to the lack of trust, poor morale, and fractured culture.”

The Administrative Investigation Board (AIB) recommended Robles be removed from employment because of “overwhelming evidence to support that the supervisor was intimidating, exhibited bullying behavior, threatening behavior, and contributed to a hostile work environment,” said a source familiar with the probe. The AIB investigation, which began on Dec. 9, 2020, and concluded the week of Jan. 11, 2021, included 57 hours of testimony from 36 witnesses and 4,000 pages of exhibits.

Robles also was the focus of two other VA Loma Linda investigations in 2020 and 2022 that substantiated allegations he fostered a hostile work environment. Details of those two investigations were not immediately available.

The controversy involving Robles is the latest in a string of troubling incidents involving VA Loma Linda employees.