New protections may be on the way for VA whistleblowers

Employees who shed light on the culture of corruption at the Department of Veterans Affairs may soon get new protection from retaliation.

For years now, employees at medical centers and administrative offices around the country have exposed mismanagement, mistreatment, fraud, and abuse. But instead of being thanked for standing up for veterans, many of these whistleblowers say they have faced retaliation and harassment.

  • Brandon Coleman worked as an addiction therapist at the VA medical center in Phoenix, Arizona. He noticed potentially suicidal veterans were leaving understaffed emergency rooms without seeing a doctor. When he raised concerns, the acting director of the medical center held a meeting to plan how to get rid of Coleman. Coleman says his bosses stopped him from getting a promotion, then accused him of workplace violence and placed him on administrative leave for a year and a half.
  • Kuauhtemoc Rodriguez is an Iraq War veteran who works as a scheduling manager at the VA medical center in Phoenix, Arizona. After discovering hundreds of veterans had died waiting for health care and thousands more were waiting for appointments, Rodriguez was dragged in front of an investigatory board and criticized for not fixing the problem he uncovered. Administrators placed him under surveillance and had his computer monitored.
  • Shea Wilkes, a veteran who worked as a social worker at the Shreveport, Louisiana VA hospital also uncovered excessive wait times. Instead of looking into the illegal practices he discovered that kept veterans from getting the care they needed, the VA launched an investigation into Wilkes to find out how he discovered the secret wait lists veterans were being placed on.

President Trump recently signed an executive order that creates a new Office of Accountability and Whistleblower Protection within the VA. The office will look into corruption within the VA and provide additional protections for employees who speak out. But under current laws, the office won’t have the authority to hold bad employees accountable for failing to carry out their duty to help America’s veterans.

This week, a bipartisan coalition of lawmakers in the Senate introduced the VA Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act of 2017. The bill would provide more protection for whistleblowers and give the new VA office created by President Trump the power to start bringing much-needed reform to the agency.

With new stories about VA corruption and incompetence breaking with depressing regularity, senators should act swiftly and pass this bill. A similar version passed the House with bipartisan support earlier this year. The men and women who fought for our country deserve better than a VA system that puts corrupt employees over the veterans they should be serving.

CLICK HERE to send your senators a message to urge them to support the VA Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act of 2017.