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Casey calls for VA overhaul, protections for whistle-blowers

U.S. Sen. Bob Casey introduces himself to Cassondra Flanagan, an Army veteran, at the Veterans Multi-Service Center in Philadelphia. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

U.S. Sen. Bob Casey introduces himself to Cassondra Flanagan, an Army veteran, at the Veterans Multi-Service Center in Philadelphia. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

In the wake of scathing reports about Philadelphia’s Veterans Affairs facilities, U.S. Sen. Bob Casey is calling on the new head of the VA to make major changes.

According to an audit by the U.S. Veterans Health Administration, workers at the VA Medical Center in West Philly said they were ordered to distort records of veterans’ appointments. More than 30 percent of employees surveyed in May answered “yes” to the following question: “Do you feel you receive instruction from the facility to enter a desired date [into an electronic system] other than the date a veteran asks to be seen?” 

Another report found employees at the Germantown VA office whitewashed dates on benefit claims.

At a press conference Friday at the Veterans Multi-Service Center, an independent nonprofit in Philadelphia, Casey said the allegations prove the need for tougher whistle-blower protections.

“We want to encourage whistle-blowers, but unfortunately, some people in government, just like there are people in business that do this, want to punish whistle-blowers,” he said. “What we should do is punish those who try to punish the whistle-blowers.”

Casey is also pushing for the VA to overhaul management at local offices and collaborate more with the Department of Defense, as well as for Congress to pass his bill aimed at cutting the time it takes to process vets’ disability claims.

“The VA has a long way to go,” he said.

A spokeswoman for the Philadelphia VA Medical Center did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The VA has said it is dealing with problems at the Germantown office.

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