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CDN: Phoenix VA whistleblower to staff new watchdog office

July 31, 2017
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WASHINGTON, July 30, 2017 – The new Veteran Administration office for whistleblower issues will be staffed by at least one whistleblower. Brandon Coleman, a whistleblower at the notorious Phoenix VA Medical Center, announced he was offered and accepted a role in the new office.

Coleman made the announcement at a panel discussion at the Whistleblower Summit held in Washington D.C. from July 26-29.

The office was recently criticized by fellow Hines VA whistleblower, Germaine Clarno, who said it had not yet been staffed.

Clarno was recently featured in a CDN article Why is VA whistleblower retaliation continuing despite new protections? in which a fellow Hines VA employee and whistleblower, Heather Camren, is currently facing retaliation after she reported improper drug handling to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA); Camren is currently facing a fourteen-day suspension which was determined shortly after her OSHA report.

But Coleman hopes to change all that. Coleman, an addiction specialist, reported that the Phoenix VA was allowing suicidal veterans to leave the hospital without being treated. As part of a retaliation campaign, he was removed from his position for more than a year.

Coleman, a marine veteran, could only be treated at the hospital during this period if a police officer escorted him to the hospital.

His medical records were also illegally accessed; James Denofrio of the Altoona VA and Sean Higgins of the Memphis VA- both are also VA whistleblowers and military veterans- also had their medical records illegally accessed.

But Coleman fought the VA until in 2016 he won a landmark whistleblower retaliation suit; Coleman also was moved to a VA facility in Northern Arizona as part of the settlement.

Though the amount of the settlement is not disclosed, Coleman famously bought a car shortly after the settlement with a vanity license plate which said, “Thx VA.”

Of his battle, Coleman noted that perseverance paid off: “Every time someone said no, I called ten more offices,” Coleman said.

He singled out the offices of Republican Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson, Republican John McCain from his home state of Arizona, and the Office of Special Counsel (OSC) for helping him. Coleman said because the office does not yet have a budget he’ll be detailed- or moved- to the office and continue to be paid at his current salary.

The OSC investigates whistleblower complaints from throughout the federal government.

Michael Volpe
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