Brian Smothers, a Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) employee in Colorado, resigned after alleging serious retaliation in the wake of his disclosure of unauthorized wait lists.
Smothers said Wednesday the VA tried to bully him into admitting via a signed statement that he violated the rules when he went public with his concerns about mental health wait lists, The Associated Press reports.
According to Smothers, who worked on the PTSD support team in Denver, various VA facilities in Colorado have placed patients on unauthorized wait lists for mental health since 2012 — all the way until September, 2015. The purpose of the list, Smothers said, was to hide how long veterans were actually waiting for care, a theme so familiar in VA scandals around the country. At the Phoenix VA, the ground zero of the wait list scandal, staff have been caught manipulating wait lists, and the practice may still be ongoing. Numerous veterans died while waiting for care.
“It was totally unacceptable to me,” Smothers said, adding “It’s my hope that the incoming administration (of president-elect Donald Trump) goes and fires people.”
It’s unclear how many veterans were on the list, or how long they have had to wait for care.
Back in September, Smothers decided to bring the problem to the attention of GOP Sens. Ron Johnson and Cory Gardner.
The VA subsequently examined whether Smothers’ disclosures violated any departmental rules, but found he was clean.
After finding out that Smothers posed the information on Amazon as an e-book, the VA opened a second investigation, which was still open at the time of his resignation.
The VA placed Smothers in a socially isolated office with no computer. Any important duties were stripped away.
So bad was that alleged retaliation that Smothers figured the best option was to resign, rather than continue at the VA.
And so that’s what he did on Tuesday.
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