VA Whistleblowers Reach Settlements With Watchdog’s Help

A federal watchdog said Monday it helped three whistleblowers at the Department of Veterans Affairs settle claims following monthslong investigations of retaliation by the department.

The Office of the Special Counsel, a federal agency tasked with protecting federal employees, said two of the employee settlements include new jobs at the VA while the third settlement was for an undisclosed amount of money, according to a release.

“I think it’s vindication for me and other whistleblowers. The system does work but it’s an arduous process,” said Paula Pedene, who had been spokeswoman at the Phoenix VA Medical Center for two decades before she was demoted and her office put in a basement library after she filed complaints. “It does give people hope that if you can hang in there you can have your day.”

Ms. Pedene first alleged financial mismanagement at the hospital in 2010. Another employee, Dr. Katherine Mitchell, alleged understaffing and inadequate triage at the hospital’s emergency room, and a third, Damian Reese, was one of the first employees to speak out in concern over veterans waiting unusually long amounts of time to get primary care appointments.

The Phoenix hospital was publicly highlighted in early April when a former VA doctor, Sam Foote, alleged VA personnel handling schedules were improperly maintaining records and listing the times that patients waited to get appointments as being far shorter than they actually were.

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