Phoenix VA Whistleblowers Reach Settlement with the US Department of Veterans Affairs
Three whistleblowers who filed claims against the notorious Phoenix VA Hospital after facing retaliation from their employer have now reached a settlement with the US Department of Veterans Affairs.
The three whistleblowers – Dr. Katherine Mitchell, Paula Pedene, and Damian Reese – were the first to report the Phoenix, Arizona Veterans Administration Hospital for its secret waitlists, lengthy delays, and poor patient treatment – a discovery which ultimately led to the resignation of former VA Decretary Eric Shinseki and an ongoing investigation into every Veterans Administration Hospital in the US.
After they reported the problems, however, the trio alleged in their retaliation complaints that they faced demotions and harassment at the hands of VA administrators for reporting the violations. The retaliation is in violation of the False Claims Act, which protects whistleblowers for reporting company problems.
Although the amount of the settlement with the US Department of Veterans Affairs has remained confidential, all three will keep their jobs in the Veterans Administration hospital system, and at least two of the settlements involve financial payment.
“I applaud the VA’s leadership for taking actions quickly to reverse these (retaliation) cases and concrete steps to change the VA’s culture,” VA Special Counsel Carolyn Lerner said. “The settlements allow these courageous employees to return to successful careers.”
“My hope is that settlements like these will help change the VA culture,” Pedene said. “What remains to be seen is how far it will go. I think the way to answer that is to have accountability and disciplinary action against those who reprised against me.”
“I’m encouraged that the national VA is willing to take a step forward and start to heal from within,” Mitchell said. “It’s a question now whether this is a one-dip-cone or a two-dip-cone day.”
Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., chairman of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee, said the settlements are “at least a tacit admission from the department that its actions against both veterans and the whistleblowers were wrong. “However, he added, “until VA officials at all levels take aggressive action to fire all managers who have sought to punish employees for exposing fraud, waste and abuse within the system, I have no confidence (the) VA’s shameful treatment of whistle-blowers will end anytime soon.”
The Strom Law Firm Can Help Protect Whistleblowers with the False Claims Act
The False Claims Act, also known as the Whistleblower Act or a qui tam lawsuit, is intended to encourage people to come forward with information and assist the government in stopping the waste of Government funds.
Common whistleblower actions include:
- Medicare fraud,
- defense contractor fraud, and
- other kinds of fraud.
If you are personally aware of a fraud that has been committed by your current or former employer, a competitor or otherwise, contact the Qui Tam attorneys at the Strom Law Firm today for a no cost consultation to discuss the facts of your case and whether filing a whistleblower lawsuit may be appropriate. We understand the complexity of the False Claims Act, and can help you with your case. We offer free, confidential consultations so contact us for help today. 803.252.4800.