Phoenix VA Whistleblower


BRANDON COLEMAN NEARLY LOST HIS JOB AT THE PHOENIX V.A. AFTER WAIT TIMES AT THE FACILITY. HE MANAGED TO KEEP HIS JOB AND WAS AT THE WHITE HOUSE WHEN PRESIDENT TRUMP SIGNED AN ORDER FOR WHISTLE BLOWER PROTECTION. WE WELCOME BRANDON COLEMAN TO "ARIZONA HORIZON."

BRANDON COLEMAN: THANKS FOR HAVING ME.

TED SIMONS: THIS IS AN INTERESTING STORY. WAS IT EXCESSIVE WAIT TIME OR SOMETHING ELSE THAT GOT YOUR GOAT?

BRANDON COLEMAN: I'M AN ADDICTION THERAPIST. THE V.A. PAID TO EDUCATE ME. I DEVELOPED A PROGRAM FOR CONVICTED FELONS. MY PROGRAM WAS RUN AT NIGHT BECAUSE VETERANS NEED SUBSTANCE COUNSELING AT NIGHT. FROM TIME TO TIME I WOULD HAVE A SUICIDAL VET AND I WOULD WALK THEM TO THE EMERGENCY ROOM AND DO A PROPER HANDOFF WITH A NURSE OR SOMEBODY THERE. I WOULD GO BACK TO MY GUYS AND THEY WERE NOT WATCHING THEM. THEY WERE DEEMED SUICIDAL AND AROUND THE SAME TIME A COWORKER WENT THROUGH MY PRIVATE MEDICAL RECORDS. IF THAT HAPPENED IN THE CIVILIAN WORLD THEY WOULD PROBABLY BE FIRED ON THE SPOT. I WAS IN FOR THE RIDE OF MY LIFE. I CAME FORWARD AS A WHISTLE BLOWER AND RETALIATION STARTED IMMEDIATELY.

BRANDON COLEMAN: WAS THERE ONE INCIDENT THAT SAID THIS HAS TO BE EXPOSED.

TED SIMONS: THAT CAME DURING A FIRE STORM WHERE WHISTLE BLOWERS WERE SUPPOSED TO BE PROTECTED. IT WAS THE FURTHEST THING FROM THE TRUTH.

TED SIMONS: TALK ABOUT THE RESPONSE OF THE V.A.

BRANDON COLEMAN: THE DIRECTOR -- I WOUND OUT GETTING HARASSED SO BAD I WENT TO THE MEDIA. THE NEXT DAY A MEETING WAS HELD TO TERMINATE ME. THE LAWYER SAID WE CAN COME UP WITH OTHER ADVERSE ACTIONS. THIS WAS DOCUMENTED FROM SOMEONE AT THE MEETING. A WEEK LATER THEY SAID I THREATENED A COWORKER. THE WEEK AFTER THAT I WAS HANDED A PIECE OF PAPER BEING SENT HOME FOR INVESTIGATION OF MISCONDUCT AND IF I WANTED TO RETURN TO THE V.A. HOSPITAL, I HAD TO HAVE AN ARMED POLICE ESCORT. THERE WAS A GAG ORDER PUT AGAINST ME BRANDON COLEMAN: TO FORBID ME FROM SPEAKING TO EMPLOYEES. I SAID HOW CAN YOU DO THAT IF I CAN'T CALL DOWN THERE? AFTER FOUR DAYS THAT WAS RESCINDED. IN SEPTEMBER 2015, WITH THE UNITED STATES OFFICE OF SPECIAL COUNCIL AND HIGH POWERED ATTORNEYS IN D.C. I WAS ABLE TO WIN MY CASE AND GET BACK TO WORK.

TED SIMONS: I HEARD YOU SAY YOU WERE HARASSED TO THE POINT OF XY AND Z. HOW WERE YOU HARASSED INITIALLY?

BRANDON COLEMAN: THERE WERE LEADERS IN THE V.A. I WOULD WALK BY. A PROMINENT MEMBER SAID DON'T ROCK THE BOAT. THINGS LIKE THAT. IT WAS UNCALLED FOR. I FELT I HAD TO HAVE PROTECTION.

TED SIMONS: YOU WERE ON PAID ADMINISTRATIVE LEAVE?

BRANDON COLEMAN: 460 DAYS.

TED SIMONS: WHAT DID YOU DO?

BRANDON COLEMAN: I WENT NUTS. MY WIFE WAS THERE FOR ME. I DIDN'T GO NUTS LITERALLY. THOUGH YOU ARE PAID, YOU ARE WAITING FOR REGISTERED LETTERS TO COME OR YOU ARE WAITING TO BE FIRED OR SOMEONE TO HELP. I CONTACTED EVERY SENATOR AND REPRESENTATIVE. I GOT HELP FROM SENATOR MCCAIN AND KRISTIN CINEMA. I HAD A LETTER ASKING THE SECRETARY WHAT WAS GOING ON.

TED SIMONS: WHERE YOU WORKED, WERE PEOPLE TELLING YOU ON THE SLY, HERE'S WHAT'S GOING ON. HERE'S WHAT'S NOT GOING ON? WERE YOU A PRAIA TO EVERYONE?

BRANDON COLEMAN: THERE ARE STILL PEOPLE TELLING ME WHAT'S GOING ON, ESPECIALLY AFTER MEETING THE PRESIDENT. I HAD 81 LETTERS FROM EMPLOYEES ACROSS THE COUNTRY. SOME WERE SENT TO ME AT THE V.A. IT SHOWS YOU THAT THE TIDE IS CHANGING, PEOPLE FEEL HOPE TO CONTACT ME.

TED SIMONS: I WAS WONDERING. WHEN YOU ARE ON ADMINISTRATIVE LEAVE HERE AND YOU HAVE BEEN HARASSED, YOU COULD FEEL ON AN ISLAND OR ALONE. IT SOUNDS LIKE THERE WERE FOLKS HANGING IN THERE WITH YOU.

BRANDON COLEMAN: I GOT HELP FROM SENATOR CHUCK GRASSLEY FROM IOWA. I HAD A LOT OF HELP FROM IOWA. SENATOR RON JOHNSON THAT INVITED ME TO TESTIFY. CHAIRMAN MILLER OF THE SUBCOMMITTEE. THE HELP WAS THERE. I THOUGHT AFTER I TESTIFIED, IT WOULD BE OVER, BUT I WAS CLEARED OF WRONG DOING, SITTING AT HOME AT GREAT EXPENSE TO THE TAXPAYER. COWORKERS DRESSED UP AS ME FOR HALLOWEEN MAKING FUN OF ME AS A WOUNDED VET. THE SUPERVISE IS THERE SMILING. NOBODY IN MY CASE HAS EVER BEEN HELD ACCOUNTABLE.

TED SIMONS: IT SOUNDS LIKE THE KEYSTONE COPS OVER THERE. IT SOUNDED EXTRAORDINARILY DYSFUNCTIONAL.

BRANDON COLEMAN: UNDER SECRETARY MCDONALD, IT'S STILL THAT WAY. THERE ARE OTHER WHISTLE BLOWERS GOING THROUGH THIS AT THE PHOENIX V.A.

TED SIMONS: IS IT IMPROVING?

BRANDON COLEMAN: I WOULD SAY, NOT YET. I HAVE SAID NATIONALLY MANY TIMES THAT THROWING MONEY AT THE PROBLEM ISN'T THE ISSUE. WAIT TIMES ARE STILL AS BAD OR WORST IN MOST AREAS OF THE HOSPITAL. YOU TELL ME WHERE THE MONEY WENT.

TED SIMONS: 2015 ACCOUNTABILITY IN YOUR FAVOR. DID YOU THINK YOU WOULD GET JUSTICE?

BRANDON COLEMAN: JUSTICE IS ME STANDING WITH THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES. IT'S THE WHISTLE BLOWERS WHO PEOPLE WILL NEVER KNOW THEIR NAME. THOSE THAT CAME FORWARD, HOW BRAVE ARE THEY?

TED SIMONS: YOU ARE WATCHING THE PRESIDENT SIGN THE ORDER. YOU ARE OFF TO THE SIDE ON THE RIGHT AS HE'S WALKING IN OR OUT. DO YOU EVER LOSE HOPE? DO YOU THINK, IS THIS EVER GOING TO TURN OUT RIGHT?

BRANDON COLEMAN: THERE ARE TIMES YOU QUESTION YOURSELF AND MOVE ON. TO WIN THIS, MY FRIENDS AND FAMILY THINK I'M CRAZY. I PUT ON THE PLANET PROFESSIONALLY TO HELP PEOPLE WITH DRUG AND ALCOHOL ISSUES. NO PLACE I WOULD RATHER WORK. I SIGN MY SETTLEMENT WITH THE SPECIAL COUNCIL ATTORNEYS WITH THE V.A. I WENT TO WORK AT THE ANTHEM COMMUNITY BASED CLINIC UNDER THE PRESCOTT OR V.A. HEALTHCARE SYSTEM. I LOVE MY NEW FACILITY. EVERYONE HAS BEEN WELCOMING AS CAN BE. THEY ARE PROFESSIONAL. IT WILL NEVER BE THE SAME.

TED SIMONS: WHAT KIND OF REACTION DID YOU GET?

BRANDON COLEMAN: I HAVE A BOSS THAT ALLOWS ME TO DO MY JOB. I TRAVEL TO COTTONWOOD TWICE A MONTH TO HELP VETERANS GET SOBRIETY.

TED SIMONS: AS FAR AS THE LEGAL CONCERN, WHAT DOES IT DO?

BRANDON COLEMAN: IT CREATES AN OFFICE TO INVESTIGATE WHISTLE BLOWER RETALIATION. WHILE IT'S A GREAT STEP FORWARD AND I BELIEVE PRESIDENT TRUMP HAS DONE A TREMENDOUS JOB IN THE FIRST 100 DAYS, BUT THERE ARE OFFICES THAT ARE SUPPOSED TO ALREADY PROTECT WHICH I SAY WILL BLOWERS. UNLESS WE GET SOME TEETH, I SAID WE NEED TO INCLUDE WHISTLE BLOWERS. WE NEED PEOPLE THROUGH THE HELL THAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU ARE A WHISTLE BLOWER AT THE V. A. HE SAID HE'S MORE THAN WILLING TO TALK ABOUT IT. FOR THIS TO MOVE FORWARD, WE HAVE TO BE INCLUDED.

TED SIMONS: YOU ARE OPTIMISTIC THAT THINGS ARE CHANGING, WILL CHANGE, WILL IMPROVE?

BRANDON COLEMAN: WE HAVE A PRESIDENT THAT BELIEVES IN THE NATION'S VETERANS AND MILITARY. WE HAVE A SECRETARY WHO I WASN'T A FAN OF AT FIRST BUT HE'S DOING A LOT OF THINGS I LIKE AND MAKING TOUGH DECISION. YESTERDAY THEY REMOVED A DIRECTOR FROM CINCINNATI AND ANOTHER ONE FROM ANOTHER FACILITY. WE NEED TO HOLD THESE PEOPLE ACCOUNTABLE.

TED SIMONS: CONGRATULATIONS. IT MUST BE DIFFICULT AT TIMES. YOU ARE BACK AT WORK FIGHTING THE GOOD FIGHT. GOOD TO HAVE YOU.

BRANDON COLEMAN: THANK YOU FOR HAVING ME.

Brandon Coleman nearly lost his job at the Phoenix VA for whistleblowing about excessive wait times for health care appointments at the facility that eventually led to a national scandal. Instead, he survived in his job as an addiction counselor and was present when President Trump signed an executive order that creates a Veteran Affairs Office of Accountability and Whistleblower Protection. Coleman will talk about his whistleblowing and Trump’s action to help protect whistleblowers.

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Brandon Coleman: Phoenix VA

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