Senator Hassan Also Addressed the VA’s Response to White River Junction Whistleblower Allegations
WASHINGTON – During a Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee hearing yesterday, U.S. Senator Maggie Hassan questioned VA officials on issues important to Granite State veterans, including boosting veteran employment, addressing a backlog of volunteers waiting for approval to drive veterans to medical appointments, and whistleblower protection in the wake of the White River Junction allegations.
To watch Senator Hassan’s questioning, click here.
Boosting Veteran Employment
Senator Hassan began by discussing her bipartisan Hire Veteran Health Heroes Act that was signed into law last year, which she introduced with Senator Mike Braun (R-IN).
“[The bill] directs the VA to recruit and hire Department of Defense medical personnel who are transitioning out of military service for open positions at the VA by referring them to the appropriate hiring authority,” said Senator Hassan.
When asked about veteran employment, Jessica Bonjorni, Chief of Veterans Health Administration Human Capital Management, said that they have been strengthening the SkillBridge program and the Intermediate Care Technician Program in order to boost veteran employment.
Addressing Volunteer Backlogs in NH
Senator Hassan also highlighted the importance of reducing red tape preventing volunteers from serving as drivers for veterans relying on transportation to VA services.
“Veterans receive free transportation to VA health care appointments from volunteer drivers, most who serve through Disabled American Veterans,” Senator Hassan said. “Unfortunately, Granite State veterans who want to be volunteer drivers often wait up to six months for exams through VA’s Occupational Health Services before they are allowed to drive... In a state like mine where we rely on volunteers a lot and people are very eager to volunteer, having this kind of barrier is really an issue.”
Ms. Grosso thanked Senator Hassan for sharing that information, saying that “volunteers are critical to our success.”
Protecting VA Whistleblowers
In addition, Senator Hassan continued to raise concerns over the VA’s response to White River Junction whistleblower allegations.
“The VA has routinely dismissed whistleblower claims, including whistleblowers at VA facilities that Granite State veterans rely on for their care,” said Senator Hassan. “Last March, the Office of Special Counsel again found a VA response to a whistleblower complaint to be unreasonable—this time regarding allegations at the White River Junction Medical Center. This case is just one example where the VA failed to treat allegations seriously and failed to safeguard whistleblowers. Ensuring the appropriate management of whistleblower claims and addressing VA workplace culture is really critical to veterans and VA personnel.”
In response, Ms. Clancy spoke about the importance of creating a safe culture that promotes integrity and positive reception to employees who raise concerns.