Phoenix, AZ — Today, the U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC) sent investigative findings which substantiated a whistleblower’s claims about retaliation he faced at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Earlier this month, Kuauhtemoc Rodriguez, chief of Specialty Care Clinics at the Phoenix VA Health Care System, alleged he was retaliated against for bringing forth concerns that patients were dying while waiting for care due to backlogs and mismanagement at the Phoenix facility.
Rodriguez claimed that a former director of the Phoenix VA tried to remove him from his position and halted his planned promotion after he first blew the whistle and reported allegations to Congress in 2015. Since, he says that he has faced harassment by management at the highest levels, kept from meetings, had duties removed, due to his whistleblower status.
There has been a clear pattern of retaliation against those who speak up about the failing Phoenix VA. Brandon Coleman, a former addiction therapist at the Phoenix VA, was issued a gag order and had his medical records improperly accessed after he raised the red flag on problems at the facility in Phoenix.
Concerned Veterans for America Arizona State Director Matt Dobson issued the following statement:
“Those with the courage to speak up when there is obvious government wrongdoing against veterans deserve praise and recognition. Unfortunately, many are nervous to step forward about problems at the VA because they, understandably, fear retaliation. The VA Accountability Act would ensure that managers who retaliate against whistleblowers like Rodriguez are terminated, and Congress should move on this bill immediately. We need real accountability reform that sets in place a safeguard that protects whistleblowers, and in turn, the well-being of veterans who rely on the VA for care.”
It’s nearing three years since the Phoenix VA wait list scandal was revealed by additional whistleblowers in April 2014. Since then, despite tens of billions of dollars in additional funding for the VA, wait times for health care have gone up at many VA hospitals and there are still regular reports of tragic misconduct within the agency. In October, an Inspector General report confirmed that hundreds of veterans are still dying waiting for care in Phoenix.
CVA supports the VA Accountability Act, which make it easier to fire bad VA employees in addition to strengthening whistleblower protections.