Denver, Colorado – A Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) whistleblower announced his resignation this week after allegations of retaliation against him. Brian Smothers, who spoke to Congress about secret wait lists in Colorado containing thousands of veterans’ names, claims that multiple inquiries have been opened by the VA to investigate his actions.
Smothers claims to have discovered official spreadsheets containing the names of thousands of veterans who were waiting for care at the VA. After he blew the whistle, Smothers says the VA placed him in a socially isolated office with no computer and stripped him of all important duties. He has since resigned due to the alleged retaliation against him.
Concerned Veterans for America’s Colorado State Director Frank Crocker released the following statement today:
“The Smothers case needs to be investigated immediately and held up as an example of why VA employees are so nervous to speak freely about the agency’s internal failures. Employees who blow the whistle on wrongdoing at the VA should never be retaliated against or made to feel like an outsider for doing the right thing. The VA system will never be fixed until those closest to it feel completely safe stepping forward to flag issues. The VA Accountability First and Appeals Modernization Act would protect whistleblowers from retaliation, and Congress should seek to pass it immediately.”
Smothers is not the first VA whistleblower to claim being retaliated against. Brandon Coleman, a former addiction therapist at the Phoenix VA, was among the original whistleblowers alerting the public to wait time manipulation at the VA. Coleman’s superiors put him on leave and attempted to have him fired for his actions. In September, it was revealed that the Altoona VA put pressure on whistleblowers and in October a judge ruled that the Montana VA retaliated against a whistleblower in violation of the federal Whistleblower Protection Act.
CVA supports the VA Accountability First and Appeals Modernization Act of 2016, which would restore accountability at the VA by expediting the removal of problem employees, increasing the power of the VA Secretary to remove problem employees, and preventing bonuses for senior executives for the next five years. It also would provide unprecedented protections for whistleblowers and address some of the constitutional concerns that have been raised by opponents of previous accountability measures.