As a Veteran, VA patient, VA employee and the son of two former VA employees, I have been affiliated with VA in some form or another almost my whole life. As a Veteran, I share an all-too-common story with many of my service brothers and sisters.
While VA helps thousands of Veterans each day, some of us still walk away feeling short-changed – and news about VA seems to confirm our negative experiences. If I am being honest, other VA employees and I have not always felt empowered to speak up to leadership when faced with problems or unethical activities. On the other side of the coin, leaders have not always listened or provided solutions when employees do speak up.
“The idea is to confront and correct potential issues when they are small.”
Recently, I have been encouraged to see VA staff and leadership talking about changing VA culture to address issues of speaking up and listening up. As an example of that change, I am excited to be part of VA’s 2018 National Compliance and Ethics Week, which takes place May 14-18.
This year’s theme is “Speak Up! Listen Up!” VA is encouraging all employees – as well as Veterans and their families – to speak up when they have concerns about potential fraud, waste, abuse or ethics issues. VA is also encouraging leaders and management to listen up whenever someone brings a possible problem to their attention.
Education and Training Sessions
Staff at VA facilities around the country will participate in education and training sessions, and other activities that will help them identify fraud, waste, abuse and unethical situations, as well as learn how to take action to address what they see. This week also aims to encourage VA management and leadership, from the front lines to VA Central Office, to listen to their employees when change is needed. The idea is to confront and correct potential issues when they are small – before they grow into real problems that can be harmful to Veterans.
Of course, speaking up and listening up do not end with this single week. VA has developed many tools and initiatives to let VA employees carry out these key themes in their daily work.
VA culture can and will change when VA employees are empowered to take responsibility for that change. Compliance and Ethics Week is part of the process.
Author: Ian Holk is a Writer-Editor with the VA National Center for Ethics in Health Care, and an Army Veteran (And his son Max)