PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Chris Stigall talked with Kristen Ruell, from the Germantown office for the Department of Veterans Affairs, about the scandal at the agency regarding the backlog of veterans waiting to receive medical care.
Ruell said her motivation to testify before Congress about the mismanagement that she saw came from a desire to tell the truth.
“I did it because I would go to work every day, and when we got there, they told us are job was to help veterans, and I was excited. I noticed that sometimes, a lot of people that worked there lost sight of the mission and it was harming people, and I couldn’t go to work every day and feel good about myself when I left if I would just go along with certain things…I decided it would be best to tell the truth and come forward,” she said.
Ruell said that most people at the department work hard to get services for veterans, but that management is corrupt and a new selection process for managers should be put in place.
“The lower level employees, non-management, they really try to do the right thing. They’re just told, sometimes, to do things that aren’t right, and they have to choose between keeping their job or not doing it. Those people, I give all the credit to. They come to work every day, and bust their butt, and that’s true. The problem is the management at the VA. You don’t have to have any special skills to be a manager at the VA. The government operates off time and grade. If you work there for a certain number of years, you qualify for different jobs. There is a lot of cronyism and nepotism in the VA. I believe, sometimes, when everybody comes to work, not everybody has the same mission, and they’re not working as a team,” Ruell explained.
Ruell still works for the VA, and she says her status as a whistleblower has not impacted her day-to-day activities.
“When I drive in the gate at the VA, I forget everything about the scandal, and it’s not that hard to forget about when you’re there because we have so much work to do. There’s never a shortage of work at the VA. As long as you do your work, your day will go by and you know you’re helping somebody,” she said.