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VA Therapist’s Whistleblower Complaint Resolved Through Mediation

Office of Special Counsel worked on retaliation allegations to win job transfer.

An addiction therapist at a Phoenix VA hospital has settled with the Veterans Affairs Department to resolve a whistleblower retaliation case through mediation, the Office of Special Counsel announced on Friday.

Brandon Coleman had disclosed that the hospital was not complying with VA policy requirements on suicide watch for vulnerable veterans, and was not, his complaint said, adequately monitoring suicidal Emergency Department patients. Coleman reported that when he raised the issue, he faced retaliation from management.

Under the mediated settlement, much of which remains confidential, Coleman as of May 1 is working in a new job as an addiction therapist at the Anthem Community Based Outpatient Clinic in suburban Phoenix.

“Mr. Coleman deserves our thanks for his efforts to improve care for veterans at the Phoenix VA,” said Special Counsel Carolyn Lerner. “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.”

OSC’s expanded Alternative Dispute Resolution program involves a neutral third party – in this case an OSC mediator – assisting with confidential talks between the opposing parties to reach a voluntary resolution. In fiscal 2015, OSC said, 81 percent of completed mediations led to settlements.

“Brandon Coleman is like many whistleblowers I’ve seen," said Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, in a statement. "All these employees want is to fix what’s broken at their agencies so they can do their jobs. They are patriots. In this case, Brandon Coleman is getting back to helping veterans. That’s good news for veterans and the taxpayers, but he shouldn’t have had to go through an ordeal of retaliation, including allegations of improper access of his medical records, which are now under investigation by the Health and Human Services Office of Civil Rights. Unfortunately, he’s not alone."