Federal employees have a wide range of options when they run into problems at work. One of those options is the Office of Special Counsel. OSC has the mandate to investigate fraud and violations of law. But they receive too many complaints and lack enough staff to investigate all those complaints. But, one San Antonio federal worker succeeded in attracting the attention of OSC. A Veterans Affairs worker named Jamie McBride complained about the process for transplants at the V.A. hospital.
He said veterans were being short-changed because they were being required to travel to distant V.A. hospitals in Houston and Nashville for heart, lung, liver and kidney transplants. Yet, when the veteran travels to these distant locales, they were actually being treated in non-VA hospitals. Mr. McBride pointed out that several San Antonio area hospitals performed these transplants. For unknown reasons, the V.A. refused to enter into contracts with those local hospitals.
After hearing the V.A.’s explanation, the OSC found Mr. McBride was correct. The V.A. imposed unreasonable eligibility criteria for persons seeking transplants under the Choice program. The OSC found that requiring families to re-locate to distant centers caused financial stress for those families. The V.A. argued that the local hospitals would not accept Medicare rates, which is a V.A. requirement. But,. Mr. McBride showed that some 50% of San Antonio hospitals would indeed accept medicare rates for those transplants.
The OSC agreed that the V.A. satisfied the requirements of the statute, but the V.A.’s actions were still unreasonable.
Mr. McBride submitted a complaint to the V.A. Inspector General’s office in 2013. Three years ago, the IG found in his favor. The worker then submitted a complaint to the Office of Special Counsel in Washington, D.C. See San Antonio Express-News report.
Yes, this is the first time I have experienced the OSC finding in favor of a local employee. Indeed, at least in my experience, they accept very few complaints for investigation.