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VA inspector general defends subpoena for watchdog’s whistleblower files

The inspector general’s office  for the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) on Friday defended its subpoena for watchdog group’s files on VA whistleblowers,  saying it is trying to obtain information needed for a complete review of the agency’s scheduling scandal.

(Charles Dharapak/AP) - Department of Veterans Affairs headquarters. (Charles Dharapak/AP) – Department of Veterans Affairs headquarters.

The IG is conducting a “massive investigation” into the manipulation of waiting lists for service at VA facilities, according to acting IG Richard J. Griffin. He  issued a subpoena to the Project On Government Oversight, an outside nonprofit organization, that has encouraged VA whistleblowers to contact the organization.

The group claims it has a constitutional right to withhold the materials and protect its sources. “For POGO to effectively operate as a government watchdog, we must assure our sources that their identities will not be revealed,” the organization said in a letter to VA Acting Inspector General Richard Griffin.

MORE: Watchdog group contests subpoena for whistleblower info on VA scandal

Similarly, Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) said in a letter to Griffin that the subpoena “may deter whistleblowers from coming forward to disclose important information that the public needs to know about how the VA is operating.”

In a reply sent Friday, Griffin said the sole reason of the subpoena was to “ensure that the Office of Inspector General had all the information available to conduct a thorough and complete investigation of these issues and hold individuals accountable when appropriate.”

Joe Davidson writes the Federal Diary, a column about federal government and workplace issues that celebrated its 80th birthday in November 2012. Davidson previously was an assistant city editor at The Washington Post and a Washington and foreign correspondent with The Wall Street Journal, where he covered federal agencies and political campaigns.

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