How bad is it at the Veteran’s Affair’s (VA) Whistleblower Protection Office? Former VA whistleblower Brandon Coleman took a job with the program in 2017. But, instead of helping other whistleblowers, he is now speaking out about the program’s failures. He described the scene there as a “dumpster fire.” After reading Donavan Slack’s ongoing coverage in USA Today of problems for both patients and staff, that sounds like an understatement. He told her:
“We need help,” Coleman said. “How can you treat your employees the exact way we’re trying to protect employees from being treated?”
Complaints about the whistleblower office are piling up and Slack’s reporting has been robust. Her latest story in USA Today offers this:
The onetime addiction counselor and Veterans Affairs whistleblower known for exposing poor care of suicidal veterans at the Phoenix VA hospital has been doing outreach to other VA whistleblowers since 2017 on behalf of President Donald Trump’s whistleblower-protection office…
Coleman told USA TODAY he has learned from colleagues in recent weeks that he has been excluded from meetings, his program is being eliminated, and he and dozens of other employees at the VA Office of Accountability and Whistleblower Protection are being asked to submit resumes and worry they could face possible demotion or worse.
She reports that Coleman has asked for help from “another federal agency that protects whistleblowers, the U.S. Office of Special Counsel.” Slack based her report on interviews with three other employees who say VA Assistant Secretary Tamara Bonzanto, who is in charge of the program, has “cut herself off” from employees.
In July, Bonzanto told Congressional investigators that she want the VA “to be a place where employees are encouraged to raise concerns about our operations and can trust that management will take allegations of wrongdoing seriously and that they will not face retaliation for raising those concerns.”
A VA statement in response to Coleman’s comments notes “that the use of the terms ‘toxic’ and ‘dumpster fire’ shows a critical disregard for longstanding problems the VA is trying to address.”
According to vets, here are some of them:
Federal News Network: New accountability office hasn’t made a dent in VA’s ‘culture of retaliation,’ whistleblowers say
Government Executive: Reprisal through intimidation, harassment and discipline continue to plague the department,
The Hill: Three employees at the Department of Veterans Affairs say they were punished after they raised alarms
NPR: For VA Whistleblowers, A Culture of Fear And Retaliation