MADISON, Wis. – This is how it apparently works in the Veterans Affairs system: Whistleblowers who report waste, fraud and abuse are punished; supervisors accused of misconduct are promoted.
Lisa Noe, formerly Mental Health Chief for the scandal-plagued Tomah Veterans Affairs Medical Center, in March was named associate director for Geriatrics and Mental Health Services at the VA’s Captain James A. Lovell Federal Health Care Center in Chicago.
“Congratulations Lisa. You have escaped accountability, got a transfer, and a promotion for your disservice to veterans and employees,” wrote Ryan Honl, who worked under Noe at Tomah as a mental health secretary.
Honl resigned that position in October 2014, claiming his was repeatedly retaliated against by his supervisors for blowing the whistle on a “culture of corruption” at the medical center. His complaints and testimony would help uncover one of the biggest scandals in the VA system, exposing a hospital staff dispensing lethal amounts of prescription drugs, a hospital led by a psychiatrist billed as the “Candy Man” for the way he reportedly handed out painkillers.
In complaints sent directly to VA Secretary Robert A. McDonald and Deputy Secretary Sloan D. Gibson, Honl alleged that Noe instructed him to falsify records. Honl said he was asked to mark staff psychiatrist Dr. Ronda Davis as on duty when Davis had failed to show up for work. Davis’ supervisor had urgently asked Honl to try to reach her on Sept. 16, 2014, that she was needed at the mental health center.
“… I followed up with (Noe) again, she said, ‘It’s OK. Just record it as a regular day (i.e. she was present for duty).’ I did as she instructed.”
After speaking with two co-workers, Honl said it was clear that he was “asked to falsify time and attendance in order to make it look like Dr. Davis had worked her entire shift.”
On another occasion, Honl said that he was instructed by another supervisor that it was acceptable to record that doctors had taken a mandatory educational class, even if they hadn’t, in order to “make the reports look good.”
“Lisa has quite a record having been at the epicenter of the scandal at the Tomah VA,” Honl wrote in an email to Wisconsin Watchdog. “She was my boss and asked me to falsify time and attendance records to record doctors as being present for duty when they were at home sitting on the couch. Lisa also retaliated against me. This is all substantiated in numerous investigatory documents.”
Noe could not be reached for comment Thursday at the VA hospital in Chicago.
Officials from the Veteran Affairs Public Affairs Office did not return multiple calls seeking comment.
U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Oshkosh, chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, announced that the panel will hold a field hearing in Tomah on Tuesday. He said the committee also will release a 300-page final report on the problems at the medical center.
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