Report backs VA whistleblower claims
PHOENIX (KSAZ) - They blew the lid off the problems plaguing the Phoenix VA healthcare system.
Now a new report from the U.S. Office of Special Counsel is backing up whistleblower claims that veterans are not getting the care they need at the VA.
The report goes so far as to say the VA isn't listening to whistleblowers and isn't doing enough to protect them.
One local whistleblower says despite this report there is still a lack of accountability at the VA.
The U.S. Office of Special Counsel is also saying the Department of Veterans Affairs did not punish employees who tried to stop whistleblowers from coming forward and who were endangering the health and safety of veterans.
"Alone it's just a sheet of paper that the VA will ignore because they've ignored all of the other reports that have come out," said Dr. Katherine Mitchell.
Dr. Mitchell is the VA doctor who blew the whistle on numerous problems at the VA Medical Center in Phoenix.
Mitchell claimed the ER had nurses who weren't appropriately trained to triage and pointed out patients experienced a dangerous delay in care.
She says the problems put forward are still prevalent, and the VA emergency room is a dangerous place, the office of special counsel agrees.
"The nurses still, or many of them do not have sufficient skills in triage nursing to be able to identify what symptoms are serious and need to be reported to a physician immediately," said Dr. Mitchell.
Mitchell says after she came forward she was retaliated against. She was put on leave, told she had to work unlimited hours and was literally transferred out of the emergency department.
"The small group of nurses were delaying my orders, were refusing to give me the EKG's, were refusing to give me verbal reports, and towards the end would not even answer simple questions in the nurses station," said Mitchell.
Brandon Coleman is also a whistleblower and worked as an addiction therapist since 2009. He is a disabled veteran himself and came forward in December of 2014.
"Because suicidal veterans and intoxicated veterans were freely walking out of the VA hospital. My medical records, because I used to get my treatment at the VA hospital, were also being entered by the employees that weren't part of my treatment, which is against HIPAA," said Brandon Coleman.
Coleman said after he came forward he was treated unfairly, taken out of his position, and placed on paid administrative leave. He's also accused of threatening another employee.
"I had a one on one meeting with Director Grippen from the Phoenix VA hospital, the first time I ever met him on January 21, the first thing he said out of his mouth when I sat down with him was, Brandon I just want you to know you're not being terminated yet, so he used the word yet," said Coleman.
The VA says that every nurse who triages patients must now be trained on an emergency severity index tool that is used throughout the country.
Both Mitchell and Coleman say no one involved in their cases has been investigated. Mitchell says every veteran or family member of a veteran who has received poor care needs to contact their Congressman to let them know there're serious issues that need to be addressed. She says the VA is forced to investigate a claim filed with a Congressman.