Submitted to VT by the Washington Post
The Washington Post’s Lisa Rein reports: As he led the security team that protects senior officials at the Department of Veterans Affairs, Anthony Everett reported what he viewed as an ethical breach and misuse of taxpayer money by two top Trump political appointees.
He reached out to an office created by President Donald Trump to root out waste and corruption in VA’s top ranks. His disclosure in October was supposed to be kept confidential.
But three hours after he pressed the send button on his computer, Everett, a disabled Army veteran, was ordered demoted by one of the officials he had complained about, losing half of his responsibilities. He was given no reason. […] This account is based on interviews with 15 current and former VA officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity to speak candidly.
From the story (excerpts):
- Everett’s case, described by six current and former VA officials, is but one in a long list of alleged reprisals against employees who reported misconduct to the troubled Office of Accountability and Whistleblower Protection (OAWP). Its disarray, one of the challenges confronting newly confirmed Veterans Affairs Secretary Denis McDonough, represents an unkept promise by a president who proclaimed he would drain the swamp of corruption — especially at the long-troubled bureaucracy of close to 400,000 employees that cares for veterans.
- To many in the department, the veterans community and both parties in Congress, the unusual program created to stop corruption has only carried out more of it. Trump appointees cycled in and out of leadership roles, hiring unqualified friends and producing substandard inquiries of senior leaders’ misconduct, VA’s inspector general found. Two of three directors in four years had no investigative background. Instead of acknowledgment, whistleblowers faced reprisal.
- With more than 3,400 complaints logged since 2017, an annual budget of $23 million and a staff of 100, the office recommended discipline against just 32 of thousands of senior leaders through mid-January, a number that struck some lawmakers as disappointingly low. It’s unclear how many managers were actually disciplined.
- Two years into his tenure, though, Everett grew alarmed when Powers, who had recently become acting deputy secretary of the department, wanted to fly first-class on a trip with Karen Pence, the vice president’s wife, according to Everett’s complaint, portions of which were reviewed by The Washington Post and confirmed by two VA law enforcement officials. The flight ended up being canceled.
- The Post confirmed the existence of documents Everett provided to investigators with details of the flight and expanded security detail. Everett received ratings of “outstanding” — the highest in government — in each of the past three years, according to performance appraisals reviewed by The Post.