VA Surgeon: There Is a ‘Cancer Within Leadership’ of VA

by Molly Wharton

“There exists a cancer within leadership” of the Veterans Affairs Administration, a VA surgeon said during the whistleblowers hearing yesterday.

Dr. Christian Head, who works as the associate director at the VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System, testified Tuesday night. He described the retaliation that he experienced when he provided honest testimony regarding time fraud committed by surgeons in his area.

“This culture of retaliation — that’s really the cancer to the veteran administration,” Head said.

Most physicians and nurses who work for the VA are “disgusted” by the concealment of the VA’s problems, he explained. But there are “a few individuals that perpetuate this idea that we should be silent, that we shouldn’t stand up and tell them to do the right thing and be honest.”

Everyone makes mistakes, Head said, but the problem is when you try to conceal those mistakes. He explained that we need to ask: “Who are these individuals that would alter the data and hide the truth and prevent patient care?”

Head described how veterans have been warning him about the consequences of his testimony. “We don’t want to lose you as a surgeon,” he said the vets told him. “If you get labeled as a whistleblower . . . they’ll take you out.”

But Head said that he is not afraid. “People need to speak up,” he said.

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