VA’s Office of Accountability and Whistleblower Protection: ‘Leadership equals accountability’


To further enhance the overall culture at VA, leadership from the Office of Accountability and Whistleblower Protection spent two days at the VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System working closely with leadership as part of a nationwide push to ensure accountability.

Topics of discussion included accountability, whistleblower protection and whistleblower retaliation matters.

“Leadership equals accountability,” OAWP Executive Director Kirk Nicholas told the executive team at the West LA campus. Overviews of the disclosure process, what constitutes whistleblower retaliation, the analysis and how it’s used in reviewing claims and case examples were among the critical educational exercises.

IMAGE: OAWP meet with homeless Veteran

Kirk Nicholas and Todd Hunter speak with Army Veteran David Harris who’s in the transitional housing program.

In addition, the Veterans Integrated Service Network  22 Network Director Michael Fisher, Medical Center Director Ann Brown and service chiefs participated in spirited round table discussions about trends the Office has identified and specific issues and/or concerns identified in the region.

“This is an important part of my orientation,” said Fisher who has been newly assigned to the region. “I’m really grateful you (OAWP) are here. Transparency is so important and I look forward to learning from you and building on our communication skills here,” he said.

Whistleblowers and union members also had the unique opportunity to meet with the office’s leadership and discuss various sensitive matters. The meetings allowed the employees to have face to face interaction to help build trust and confidence in the work the office is doing.

“These discussions overall were positive, productive and helped us identify areas to bolster our process and approach as we move forward with this critical training at facilities nationwide,” Nicholas said.

Both Nicholas and OAWP’s Deputy Executive Director Todd Hunter toured the facility’s Community Engagement & Reintegration Service ‘Welcome Center’ where an estimated 800 homeless Veterans walk through the doors monthly and receive critical care. The two had the unique opportunity to engage homeless Veterans and hear about the services provided to help empower them and serve to effectively reintegrate them back into their communities.

“I was particularly impressed with U.S. Navy Veteran David Goodie who was homeless for 30 consecutive years and now serves as a CERS certified peer support specialist and ambassador in the region, his service to Veterans is a prime example of ensuring our Nation’s servicemen and women are afforded the best possible services from the VA,” said Hunter.

OAWP is executing similar support and educational training exercises for leadership and employees at VA medical facilities across the country.

IMAGE: U.S. Navy Veteran David Goodie talks with Hunter

Todd Hunter (right) speaks with U.S. Navy Veteran David Goodie.


Ashleigh Barry

Ashleigh Barry is a strategic communications advisor in the Office of Accountability and Whistleblower Protection. She has an extensive background in investigative journalism where her coverage garnered multiple Emmy Awards and the distinctive Edward R. Murrow Award. Her most recent assignment was in Dallas, Texas, at NBC Universal, she also anchored and reported at CBS and ABC News affiliates in Phoenix, Arizona , Columbus, Ohio, Milwaukee, Wisconsin and Lubbock, Texas.