by WorldTribune Staff, April 2, 2017
A doctor who is being paid $250,000 a year to help those who served their country now can’t help them at all.
Dr. Dale Klein, a highly-rated pain management specialist at the Southeast Missouri John J. Pershing Veterans Administration facility literally does nothing – punishment, he said, for being a whistleblower.
“I sit in a chair and I look at the walls,” the doctor told Fox News of his typical workday. “It feels like solitary confinement.”
Klein said the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) took away his patients and privileges almost a year ago after he revealed to the VA’s inspector general secret wait-lists and wait-time manipulation at the VA in Poplar Bluff, Missouri as well as his suspicion that some veterans were reselling their prescriptions on the black market.
“Immediately after the VA found out I made these disclosures, I started to get retaliated against,” Klein said.
Klein said he was initially placed on administrative leave, but the Missouri VA then closed his pain management clinic and tried to terminate him. According to court documents, the VA tried to fire Klein “not based on substandard care or lack of clinical competence” but instead for “consistent acceleration of trivial matters through his chain of command.”
“I do not consider secret wait-lists and manipulations of wait times to be trivial matters,” Klein said.
The Office of Special Counsel, an independent federal investigative agency in Washington, D.C., made it clear that since Klein was a whistleblower, he could not be fired. But Klein told Fox News the retaliation continued and believes his superiors stripped him of his duties to silence him.
“It could set a bad precedent for other whistleblowers because they’re going to say, ‘I don’t want to risk my livelihood, my career, my security because I see what happened to Dr. Klein and I don’t want that to happen to me or my family’,” said Natalie Khawam, president and founder of the Whistleblower Law Firm, which represents Klein.
Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee Chair Ron Johnson, Wisconsin Republican, has written a letter to the acting VA secretary requesting the VA “cease all retaliatory actions” against Klein.
“I’m concerned about a doctor who could be utilizing his skills to help veterans, but who is not able to utilize those skills,” Johnson said.
Johnson is now trying to pass a whistleblower protection bill.
Klein is looking for the Trump administration to make substantial changes to the VA so veterans can get the quality care they deserve and those who uncover problems or wrongdoing – and report it – are protected.
“This is a heart-stopping moment for the VA and the transformation can start in Poplar Bluff,” Klein said.