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Phoenix VA Whistleblower Returns to Work
May 06, 2016
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
VA Therapist Who Disclosed Patient Neglect Obtains Justice at the Office of Special Counsel
WASHINGTON – Today, Mr. Brandon Coleman and his attorneys at the Government Accountability Project applauded the successful resolution of his Whistleblower Protection Act retaliation complaint at the U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC) against the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Mr. Coleman, a VA addiction therapist in Phoenix, Ariz., created Motivation for Change (M4C), the agency’s most successful suicide prevention program. After blowing the whistle last year on surrounding patient neglect, however, he charged that the agency denied him a promised promotion, removed his duties and canceled the M4C program entirely, while imposing a hostile work environment that forced him to take medical leave, and subjected him to retaliatory investigations. As a whistleblower, he has testified repeatedly in Congress and has been a frequent agency critic in the national media.
In addition to undisclosed terms, the promotion returns Mr. Coleman to work on May 1st at an Anthem, Arizona Community Based Outpatient Clinic (CBOC) that is independent from his former chain of command. Although certain elements of his job duties remain to be determined, Mr. Coleman and his team are optimistic that this position will serve as a fresh start.
After a years long battle, Mr. Coleman stated:
“I would like to thank my wife and family for standing by me. I would also like to thank the attorneys at Dohrer and Watts and the fine people at the Government Accountability Project; Tom Devine and the GAP team are a class act, and I will always be grateful for their belief in my case. I would also like to thank the members of Congress and their tireless staffers who stood by me: a special thanks to the offices of Representatives Kyrsten Sinema and Ann Kirkpatrick. From the Senate, I’d like to thank Senator John McCain and HSGAC Chairman Senator Ron Johnson, as well as Judiciary Committee Chairman Senator Chuck Grassley for remaining vocal on my behalf. Each of their staffers worked tirelessly to assist me. I also appreciate the professionalism of the Office of Special Counsel. I am humbled to have completed this process with their help.
“Last, I’d like to thank members of the media who devoted resources and time to shine light on my case and the ongoing problems at the VA. During the last 18 months, I never turned down an interview and spoke with over 300 reporters that leaned to both the left and right. If not for their voices, I would have been terminated and forgotten long ago. My hope in moving forward is that what happened to me, never happens to another whistleblower. It was 18 months of hell, but as I write this, I would do it all over again. Because of my disclosures many countless suicidal veteran lives have and will be saved. I am grateful to be back at work helping veterans to overcome their substance use disorders once again. Even after all that has happened, there is truly nothing I’d rather be doing than helping our nation’s veterans.”
Mr. Coleman’s lawyer, GAP Legal Director Tom Devine, said:
“For issues that have been resolved, this settlement is a win-win-win; for Mr. Coleman whose free speech rights were protected; the VA, which regains the services of one of its most effective therapists; and the veterans for whom Mr. Coleman’s therapy can make the difference between life and death.
“The agreement was a team effort. The OSC’s Alternate Dispute Resolution (ADR) unit was a model of professionalism and marathon persistence shepherding the process. VA counsel acted as a good faith problem solver, rather than an adversary. Most significant, Mr. Coleman was flexible and willing to give the VA another chance as the base for his calling.”
Tom Devine, GAP Legal Director
Government Accountability Project
The Government Accountability Project is the nation's leading whistleblower protection organization. Through litigating whistleblower cases, publicizing concerns and developing legal reforms, GAP's mission is to protect the public interest by promoting government and corporate accountability. Founded in 1977, GAP is a nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy organization based in Washington, D.C.