A government worker who has testified in Congress about problems at the Department of Veterans Affairs has a job at the new office aimed at protecting VA whistleblowers from retaliation.
Brandon Coleman, an addiction therapist at the Phoenix VA hospital, will work at the VA's Office of Accountability and Whistleblower Protection.Coleman is a Marine veteran who spoke up when he saw problems that he believed were contributing to veterans' suicides. He was placed on administrative leave, and has said VA officials since illegally accessed his own medical records.
Coleman had the support of Republican senators, who in 2016 asked that Coleman be transferred to another VA office because of how he was treated.
He said he welcomed the chance to work in a new administration to make the VA better for veterans.
"I know that the people sitting in that room with me have been brought in from other agencies and have been with VA less than six months," he said. "Their goals are very similar to mine, to fix the mess."
"I have never heard of an agency trying to destroy an employee and then bringing him on to try to fix things," he added. "Very humbling to be a part of this and I applaud President Trump and [VA] Secretary [David] Shulkin for their outside the box thinking on ways to improve care at the VA."
The new VA office was created in legislation that Trump signed into law this year.
Concerned Veterans for America also welcomed the addition.
"Whistleblowers who bravely flag problems at the VA should be thanked, not silenced," said CVA policy director Dan Caldwell. "But under the last administration, many whistleblowers like Brandon faced retaliation from their own government. VA leadership was more interested in sweeping things under the rug than facing the systemic problems that plagued the department."
"Brandon's hire shows that Secretary Shulkin is serious about ushering in a new era of accountability at the VA," he added. "Giving whistleblowers a seat at the table will be a critical step in understanding how to solve problems on the ground at VA facilities across the country."