Judge orders fired VA whistleblower reinstated


BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – Lisa Magin took her job with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs very seriously—so seriously, her co-workers at Buffalo’s VA Medical Center seemed to resent her dedication—and when Magin reported their infractions, they got hostile.

Magin was a Medical Supply Technician in the VA’s Sterile Processing Service, which is responsible for cleaning and sterilizing medical tools. Lisa blew the whistle on co-workers she saw taking shortcuts, or skipping basic rules, but when she reported those infractions, she didn’t feel she was taken seriously.

“They would just waive me off, tell me that my work standards were too high–not to slack off, but to just back off and relax,” Lisa told us in a Call 4 Action interview back in June, 2014.

But Magin would have to pay a hefty price for trying to do the right thing. Once the work environment became hostile, she took a medical leave, but when Magin was ordered to return to work at the VA, she followed her own doctor’s orders and refused, which led to her termination on March 5, 2013.

“They just made it seem like I was the problem, and all I wanted to do was make sure that we were doing the right thing.”

Lisa’s case became part of an investigation by the U.S. Office of Special Counsel, which found the VA had actually made a number of corrections, which News 4 also reported two years ago, in an interview with Kathryn Varkonda, the Medical Performance Manager at the Buffalo VA.

Varkonda commented, also in the June, 2014 report, “We are dealing with human beings here. I mean, have any of us ever not made a mistake. People make mistakes.”

But an administrative judge has ruled Lisa had engaged in legitimate whistleblower activity, which is protected by law, and she was fired because of it—not necessarily by retaliation but by the VA’s failure to protect Magin from a hostile work environment.

The judge ordered Magin’s reinstatement effective to the date she was terminated in 2013, which includes all of Lisa’s back pay–with interest–and benefits. Lisa is obviously pleased with the ruling, and looking forward to going back to the VA.

A spokesperson for the Buffalo VA wrote in an email VA officials have not seen the ruling, but they would not comment on it anyway, because it is a personnel matter. The VA has a month to appeal the decision.

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