A chief of medicine for the Department of Veterans Affairs used her last days to shed light on poor veteran care in central and western Massachusetts. Dr. Sarah Kemble passed away from cancer in December of last year, shortly after finishing an affidavit detailing what she witnessed while working at the VA.
Kemble joined the VA in 2014. During her time with the department, she said she witnessed delays in patient care, a breakdown in the Veteran’s Choice Program, mismanaged funds and substandard care – especially in psychiatric care and unqualified leadership.
She also said her attempts to fix problems resulted in the VA demoting and transferring her.
Retaliation against whistleblowers at the VA is all too common.
- In one instance, a whistleblower at the Phoenix VA was issued a gag order and put on administrative leave after raising concerns about care given to suicidal veterans.
- Retaliation has been so prevalent that when crafting accountability legislation last year, Congress had to include whistleblower protections in the final bill to combat the problem.
The Office of Accountability and Whistleblower Protection is investigating Kemble’s charges. Hers aren’t the first disturbing accusations on misconduct and poor care in Massachusetts.
- In 2017, the VA in Boston was found to have misdiagnosed cases of traumatic brain injury partially because unqualified doctors were examining patients.
- Additionally, a Boston-area veteran claimed he was given the confidential medical records of two other veterans when he received his own medical records.
The VA should be on the road to recovery from misconduct and mismanagement. The VA Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act makes it easier to discipline poor performers at the VA and protects those who speak out when they see something going wrong. But that’s not enough.
Veterans shouldn’t be stuck in a scandal-ridden health care system to begin with. They should be free to choose health care at a VA facility or with a private provider. They should have the ability to leave the VA’s often ineffective system in favor of quicker and better care.