VA clinic employees skeptical of survey


JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The FBI opened a criminal investigation Thursday into the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, which is grappling with a scandal over long waiting lists and allegations of veteran deaths as the result of untimely care.

While local VA clinic employees wait for the outcome of the investigation, some employees say they're concerned about a government survey sent to random employees recently.

A 50-page survey wasn't sent to employees of the VA and other agencies by the Veterans Affairs Office or the FBI, but instead by the Federal Office of Personnel Management. Employees say they are concerned about answering the questions because of the congressional and FBI investigation into VA hospitals.

The questions come at a time when VA employees may be on edge. They're questions like, "In my organization, senior leaders generate high level of motivation and commitment in the workforce. Do you agree or disagree?" Or, "My organization's senior leaders maintain high standards of honesty and integrity."

"To me, the survey was biased because it only went to certain individuals," VA clinic employee Shawn Lee said.

Lee said she became suspicious about the federal survey because certain employees were singled out and it asked questions she said could be interpreted the wrong way.

"There are certain people who will say and do anything management will request them to do because they are afraid of losing their jobs," Lee said. "There should be a survey where we can voice our true opinions, where we won't be penalized for voicing our opinions. That's the only way to get things done around here."

The survey comes on the heels of VA Secretary Eric Shinseki's resignation and an outcry from veterans who say the VA's issues are a matter of life and death.

"If I hadn't been seen that day I would have been dead," said Marine Corps veteran Ron Stewart. "And that wasn't the only thing. I was given the wrong medication."

Stewart said he literally had to beg for emergency care at a VA hospital in Virginia after employees told him his appointment had been rescheduled 30 days out.

"And they went back and checked me, and my sugar level was 1,100," Stewart said. "I could have been dead."

Stewart said the problems in the VA clinics are decades old. Employees say they are working on pins and needles, and surveys make them suspicious.

"It's a hostile working environment," Lee said. "We are all afraid. Most are afraid to talk -- well, I'm not afraid -- due to retaliation."

A spokesperson for the Office of Personnel Management said some employees received surveys and others did not because it would be impossible to sample all 1.6 million federal employees.

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