WASHINGTON (Sputnik) — US Senator John McCain is urging the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary Robert McDonald to examine allegations of harassment and intimidation against whistleblowers at the Phoenix Veterans Affairs hospital, according to a letter written by the senator.
“The Department of Veterans Affairs continues to face a systemic problem in its handling of whistleblower complaints, as well as a culture that breeds intimation and retaliation," McCain said in the letter on Friday. "The VA must change its culture and accord all due protection to whistleblowers within the agency."
Brandon Coleman, a whistleblower who voiced concerns about the way the Phoenix Veterans Affairs healthcare system (PVAHCS) managed the care of patients at risk of suicide, was subject to harassment and intimidation by superiors, according to McCain.
“My office has since learned that Mr. Coleman has been placed on administrative leave,” McCain said. “Without prejudging the merits of Mr. Coleman’s concerns, but in light of recent revelations regarding related misconduct at PVAHCS, I urge you to look into and address this situation immediately.”
There have been an increasing number of current and former employees at the VA sharing similar stories of retaliation for bringing serious allegations of manipulated wait times, mismanagement, and neglect to the attention of superiors, McCain said.
This evidence is substantial enough to prove a systemic problem in the mishandling of whistleblower complaints, and it is unacceptable, according to McCain.
The Department of Veterans Affairs must change its culture and accord all due protections to whistleblowers within the agency as required by law, the senator concluded.
The Office of Special Counsel issued a report in June of 2014 detailing 37 claims of whistleblower retaliation at VA.