The Veterans Affairs Inspector General has subpoenaed a watchdog organization for information it received from whistleblowers about fraud and mismanagement at VA facilities.
The Project on Government Oversight (POGO) announced Monday that it will resist a subpoena from the VA Inspector General, an independent federal agency tasked with oversight of the Department of Veterans Affairs.
The VA IG has been investigating hidden wait times and patient deaths at VA facilities across the country.
POGO, along with the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, launched a website on May 15 where whistleblowers within the VA could confidentially report problems. According to POGO, roughly 700 people have submitted tips using the site.
Numerous VA whistleblowers alleged they experienced retaliation from superiors after trying to report mismanagement through official channels.
On May 30, the VA IG subpoenaed POGO for its records from the website.
POGO executive director Danielle Brian said in a statement that the IG’s demand “stands opposed to POGO’s mission and to good government reform—both of which serve the public interest.”
POGO’s reply to the IG Monday said the subpoena violates its constitutional “freedom of speech, freedom of press, and freedom of association rights as they relate to all whistleblowers and sources.”
“The people coming to POGO have a shared interest in our investigative reporting and efforts to expose and remedy the failures at the VA,” the reply states. “That shared interest includes allowing those sources to make disclosures to POGO without fear of being identified and possibly retaliated against. The overall intent is to ensure that the investigation remains focused on the VA’s failures and that the focus does not become an agency-wide witch hunt to punish the individuals who stepped forward.”
A VA Inspector General spokeswoman said the office “will review POGO’s response and deal directly with them when we make a determination.”