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  • 35 Percent Of Whistleblower Retaliation Claims Come From VA In 2015, VA Is Doing Nothing To Prevent It

    The Department of Veterans Affairs is entirely lackluster in listening to whistleblowers and protecting their rights, a new letter from the Office of Special Counsel sent Thursday said.

    Long-due, the letter from the independent federal investigative agency supported allegations made by whistleblowers back in 2014 about problems at certain VA facilities, most notably the Carl T. Hayden Medical Center in Phoenix, Ariz., CNN reports.

    Rather than taking steps to address the issues, the letter noted that VA officials often targeted whistleblowers with harassment and intimidation in locations like Maryland, Alabama and West Virginia, among others. In the vast majority of these cases, VA officials took no steps to punish wrongdoers or protect whistleblowers who put themselves on the line when coming forward.

    In one case highlighted by the OSC, the VA refused to take any action whatsoever on disclosures from Dr. Katherine Mitchell, who reported delays in health care stemming from a dangerously low number of triage nurses in the Phoenix VA emergency room. This dragged on for five years and created at minimum 110 cases of hazardous delays.

    “There’s no way I’d recommend anyone, any professional join the VA right now,” Mitchell said in an interview with CNN. “Because (VA Secretary Robert) McDonald has not made any substantial progress in holding people that do whistleblower retaliation accountable.”

    Sen. Ron Johnson, chairman of the Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee, wrote a letter Wednesday asking McDonald to further specify the procedures in place to protect whistleblowers. It appears, based on OSC data, that those procedures are insufficient. Of its entire caseload on retaliation, the OSC projected that 35 percent of claims will come from the VA in 2015.

    Just a year ago, the OSC received more complaints from VA employees than Department of Defense employees, despite the latter department having double the number of civilian workers. Even with attempts to allocate more resources in the investigative agency to handling VA complaints, Special Counsel Carolyn Lerner recently said that the number of issues pouring in is overwhelming.

    Brandon Coleman, a Marine Corps veteran who served as a therapist at Phoenix, has featured as a prominent example of retaliation. According to the then-acting human resources officer, the director of the hospital held a meeting following Coleman’s disclosure to the media of understaffing in the emergency room and illegal access of patient records by employees, in an effort to figure out if he could be fired. A VA lawyer stated that Coleman was protected under federal whistleblower statutes but mentioned that he could be removed for unrelated misconduct.

    A few weeks later, Coleman was placed on administrative leave because of an altercation he allegedly had with a co-worker. He has not worked since January.

    Last week, the VA’s Office of Accountability Review opened an investigation into claims that Brandon Coleman was retaliated against by the acting medical center director at Phoenix for discussing his concerns with the media, a federal source told The Daily Caller News Foundation.

    Follow Jonah Bennett on Twitter

    Content created by The Daily Caller News Foundation is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a large audience. For licensing opportunities of our original content, please contact licensing@dailycallernewsfoundation.org.

    Content created by The Daily Caller News Foundation is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a large audience. For licensing opportunities of our original content, please contact licensing@dailycallernewsfoundation.org.

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