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Updated Jun 9, 2014 - 5:00 am

Whistleblower encouraged by interim leader as VA prepares to release report

The Veteran’s Administration is expected to release a report on Monday that will give information on how many veterans are on lists and waiting for care at every V.A. hospital in the country.

Meanwhile, one of the “whistleblowers” who spoke up about the number of veterans who were on a waiting list at the Carl T. Hayden VA Medical Center in Phoenix, likes what she heard from the Acting Chief of the V.A. last week.

Paula Pedene served for 20 years as hospital spokeswoman. She then found out that hundreds of veterans were put on waiting lists there and their treatment was being delayed.

During a Saturday appearance on KTAR’s “Arizona’s Morning News Weekend” show, Pedene said, “I blew the whistle on the prior leadership team in 2011, and believe that whistleblower reprisal has happened to me.”

She believes that her transfer to her current position working in the hospital library was the result of that retaliation. The V..A now says that 37 whistleblowers at VA hospitals around the nation were victims of retaliation.

During a visit to Phoenix last Thursday, acting V.A. chief Sloan Gibson said that whistleblowers should not face V.A. retaliation.

“I will not tolerate for a minute the intimidation of someone who raises an issue or a problem,” Gibson said. “That’s unacceptable behavior. From my perspective, that is unethical behavior, and it won’t stand.”

Pedene was crying on the air when she told KTAR hosts Bob McClay and Stacey Brooks that she was glad to hear Gibson’s statement.

“That was my favorite quote. I mean I’m just crying,” said Pedene. “I’ve been there so long, and my heart and soul are just in that place. It’s so sad. If our staff are not happy, if our staff are not engaged, if our staff can’t do their jobs, then what kind of care are they going to give to our patients?”

As for the lists that Pedene was talking about, the V.A. now says there were 1,700 veterans on that list. Eighteen of them have died, but the V.A. is not confirming that their deaths were due to a delay in their treatment.

Pedene said that she would like to get her old job back, but there’s no indication that is going to happen. But she also said that Gibson appears to be a good leader, and may be just the person to turn things around at the V.A.

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