• Democratic Rep. Tells VA Sec To Watch Closely As Retaliation Investigation In Phoenix Unfolds

    Democratic Rep. Kyrsten Sinema urged Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald Monday to pay close attention regarding whistleblower retaliation in Phoenix and to seriously discipline any employees caught acting inappropriately.

    Sinema referenced the recent sworn statement from former acting human resources officer Laurie Butler in letters to both the secretary and to the Office of Special Counsel (OSC), the independent agency which investigates whistleblower complaints in the federal government. Butler was present at a meeting where officials at the Phoenix Veterans Affairs Health Care System tried to brainstorm a way to remove whistleblower Brandon Coleman from his job the day after he aired his concerns to the media. These concerns included employees illegally accessing medical records and poor handing of suicidal veterans.

    Officials soon determined in private conversation that removing Coleman for speaking to the press would constitute a violation of the Whistleblower Protection Act, but that he could be removed under grounds of unrelated misconduct. Just a few weeks later, Coleman was placed on administrative leave. (RELATED: Former VA Official Testifies About Illegal Removal Of Whistleblower In Phoenix)

    The investigation is still ongoing, and Butler’s testimony only adds further weight to accusations of retaliation stemming from the Phoenix leadership.

    “When you became the Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), you pledged to change the culture within the agency,” Sinema wrote. “The abusive and negative workplace environment that allowed the scandalous treatment of veterans to occur in Phoenix and other locations must end. For true cultural change to occur there must be accountability at all levels, including facility leadership and top managers in the agency.”

    “Like you, I await the outcome of the OSC investigation. If the investigation finds any VA employee broke the law by retaliating against a whistleblower, I urge you to take immediate and swift disciplinary action, up to and including termination of employment.”

    Sinema also asked for an update from OSC on the allegations of retaliation.

    “I want to thank Congresswoman Sinema for her continued support of my ongoing struggles with Phoenix VA hospital director Glen Grippen,” Brandon Coleman told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “Today I have also contacted leadership at VISN 18 that oversees director Glen Grippen and I have asked the VISN officials, the OSC and members of both the house and senate for an independent investigation into Glen Grippen’s illegal removal of me.”

    McDonald has previously urged Coleman to cooperate with Grippen’s “good faith effort” to try and reinstate Coleman into his position.

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