TAMPA (FOX 13) - A case cited by the Office of Special Counsel in an investigation into the Department of Veterans Affairs is still unresolved, and the whistleblower - whose offense was allegedly eating a stale sandwich - is ready to tell his story.
Years after scandal rocked theVA, whistleblowers said they still got punished for speaking out.
The Office of Special Counsel (OSC) investigated those claims of mismanagement and harassment against the veterans who reported it, and worked to settle their complaints. The OSC cited the case of Troy Thompson as part of a pattern at the VA, in which whistleblowers who disclose wrongdoing often face trumped-up charges, while the misconduct they expose goes unpunished.
Thompson joined the NAVY as a young man. Cooking was his specialty, and he served thousands of meals along the way, from ships to VA centers. He worked his way up to food service production chief in Philadelphia when his problems began.
Here's how OSC described his story:
In 2012, Mr. Thompson reported management inaction on disciplinary issues and several violations of VA sanitation and safety policies, including a fly and pest infestation in facility kitchens. On the same day he made these disclosures to his supervisor, the supervisor detailed Mr. Thompson to the VA's Pathology and Lab Service pending an investigation into him for eating four expired sandwiches worth a total of $5.
His new job mostly consisted of janitorial work, including sanitizing the morgue and handling human body parts. Mr. Thompson already had admitted that he ate and gave away the sandwiches instead of disposing of them per VA practice.
After the VA investigation concluded he had stolen government property (the sandwiches), he was issued a proposed removal and fined $75. Mr. Thompson spent over two years on the detail and was under the pending removal for most of that time. The VA ultimately took positive steps to address his case by reassigning him to his previous position and rescinding the proposed removal.
OSC determined, however, that the VA also owed Mr. Thompson compensatory damages, which the VA has agreed to provide as part of a settlement.
FOX 13 emailed Troy Thompson more than a year ago, and he just recently replied to say he's ready to talk.
"You would probably find numerous vets who have been blackballed, run over and kicked out of the ranks unjustifiably," he said. "Agencies or organizations just act like a rogue faction and do just whatever they want no matter what their own rules say. They'll break their own rules even"
Thompson also said the VA is retaliating and punishing him, yet again. He said he'll share the details when they resolve his complaint.
"It's pick-and-choose. If you're with me, I get to cover for you and it gets swept under the rug. If you're not with me, you have to deal with their vengeance and their desperate treatment," he explained.
The VA says it has made significant progress since the scandal of 2014 and continues to improve. President Trump ran on a 10-point plan to enact additional reforms. He nominated Dr. David Shulkin to take over as VA Secretary, and Shulkin has promised greater accountability.