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Watchdog: VA faces claims of retaliation

BY MATTHEW DALY Associated Press

WASHINGTON - A federal investigative agency is looking into claims that Veterans Affairs supervisors retaliated against 37 employees who filed whistleblower complaints, including some who complained about improper scheduling practices at the heart of a growing health care scandal.

The independent Office of Special Counsel says it has blocked disciplinary actions against three VA employees who reported wrongdoing, including one who was suspended for seven days after complaining to the VA's inspector general about improper scheduling.

The agency also blocked a 30-day suspension without pay for another VA employee who reported inappropriate use of patient restraints and blocked demotion of a third employee who reported mishandling of patient care funds, a spokesman said Friday.

The report by the special counsel's office comes amid a furor over allegations that patients have waited three months or more for appointments as VA officials falsified records to cover up delays at VA hospitals and clinics nationwide.

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