Brandon Coleman, a therapist and decorated veteran at the VA hospital in Phoenix, Ariz., advised his supervisor of potential problems in how suicidal patients were being administered at the hospital. Six days after the meeting with his supervisor, he was put on paid administrative leave.
“After I came forward, the director wanted a meeting with me. I thought: ‘This is great. We can fix this. No suicidal veteran should leave the VA without talking to somebody — that shouldn’t be allowed to happen,’ ” Coleman said. “But, instead, the meeting was just eerie.”
In July, Robert McDonald, VA Secretary, came to his position announcing that he wanted to create a culture in the department that “celebrates” whistleblowers. This incident with Coleman does the contrary— VA workers are still susceptible of being retaliated by their authorities.
Coleman is not the only person that has been retributed for raising concerns. The Washington Post reported similar outcomes to individuals within other VA hospitals in the U.S. One of them was Jose Matthews, former chief of psychiatry at the VA hospital in St. Louis. Matthews brought up how his supervisors shared a “disregard for veteran care and safety” and was later dismissed.
Coleman, Matthews, and other workers have filed complaints with the Office of Special Counsel, an independent federal agency that investigates whistleblower claims within the VA health facilities. According to WashPost, the agency has received 111 VA reprisal cases that involve health and safety issues across 36 states.
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