Noted Phoenix VA Whistleblower Finally Reaches Settlement Over Retaliation

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Jonah Bennett Contributor
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Noted Phoenix VA whistleblower Brandon Coleman has come to a resolution with the Department of Veterans Affairs regarding his claims of serious retaliation, which the Office of Special Counsel (OSC) took up and thoroughly investigated.

Coleman, who worked as an addiction therapist at Phoenix, filed a complaint with the OSC alleging the VA was violating its policy of assigning one employee to every suicidal veteran. Additionally, Coleman said the VA wasn’t properly monitoring suicidal veterans in the emergency department.

Due to his disclosures, Coleman says he was retaliated against by hospital management, which turned him into a heated critic of the department. He appeared on news networks and in Congress to raise awareness about accountability issues.

After countless months of struggle and hardship, Coleman is now rejoining the hospital as an addiction therapist at a Phoenix outpatient clinic. His new job started on May 1 and does not fall under the former chain of command that led to retaliation in the first place. During his time at Phoenix, before all the disclosures and blowback from management, Coleman came up with the department’s most successful suicide prevention program, known as Motivation for Change (M4C). Following his disclosures, the agency extinguished the M4C program.

“Mr. Coleman deserves our thanks for his efforts to improve care for veterans at the Phoenix VA,” said Special Counsel Carolyn Lerner in a statement. “I am pleased that the VA and Mr. Coleman were able to use OSC’s mediation program to reach an agreement so that both parties can productively move forward in serving veterans.”

The details of the mediation are private. 81 percent of finished meditations resulted in settlements in fiscal year 2015, according to OSC data.

“My hope in moving forward is that what happened to me, never happens to another whistleblower,” Coleman said in a statement. “It was 18 months of hell, but as I write this, I would do it all over again. Because of my disclosures many countless suicidal veteran lives have and will be saved. I am grateful to be back at work helping veterans to overcome their substance use disorders once again. Even after all that has happened, there is truly nothing I’d rather be doing than helping our nation’s veterans.”

“For issues that have been resolved, this settlement is a win-win-win; for Mr. Coleman whose free speech rights were protected; the VA, which regains the services of one of its most effective therapists; and the veterans for whom Mr. Coleman’s therapy can make the difference between life and death,” Coleman’s lawyer, GAP legal director Tom Devine said.

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