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Fox 10: Vindication for Phoenix V-A whistleblowers: Watchdog agency's report verifies claims

December 07, 2016
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PHOENIX (KSAZ) - There's vindication for two Phoenix V-A Hospital whistleblowers who came forward with claims about potentially suicidal patients not receiving the proper care.

A new report out by an independent federal watchdog agency verifies those claims, saying they were right to come forward. We're hearing from one of the whistleblowers named in that report.

For the past few years, it's been a long road for Brandon Coleman. You could tell when he spoke with us that he was happy to be back to a normal routine at his new job helping veterans fight drug and alcohol addiction. But he can't shake the scandal because to him, everything else has stayed the same.

"The only one whose life has changed is mine for telling the truth and that's what needs to change," he said.

Coleman first filed his complaint with the Office of the Special Counsel two years ago. In the wake of the waiting list scandal, the former Marine and addiction therapist at the Phoenix V-A was concerned that suicidal veterans were not being seen.

"There's zero accountability at the Phoenix V-A. None of these actors have been held accountable, basically what the V-A did was pay me off and gave me a new start somewhere else," he said.

Coleman has been back to work since May and says he loves working in his new office with the Prescott V-A. 

The OSC issued a report, stating that his actions "likely saved lives by speaking up" and that was relayed to President Obama in a letter issued on December 5.

"This is vindication for me, this proved to the President of the United States that I told the truth. But the lesson here is what an employee goes through for telling the truth. The V-A came after me harder for telling the truth, than they did in actually admitting a problem," said Coleman.

He has a new job, but the fight still continues.

"I'll always be a whistleblower. I help countless whistleblowers every week. I probably get three to five phone calls from other employees just like I was at one time, crying, not knowing what to do, not knowing where to go."

Coleman says doing the right thing still makes sense.

"It made everything worth it. The reason that I came forward was to save lives." 

In that letter to the president, Carolyn Lerner wrote that "the matter is now closed."

We did reach out to the Phoenix V-A for comment. In the past, they have referred us on several occasions to their office in Washington, D.C., however, this time, they didn't respond to any of our requests.

Matt Rodewald
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