VA Secretary meets with whistle-blower

President Barack Obama is coming to the Valley Friday to meet with leaders of the Phoenix VA Hospital.

Phoenix was ground zero in the scandal that exposed secret waiting list. 

On Friday, the President and VA Secretary Robert McDonald will meet with the interim director of the Phoenix VA.

Secretary McDonald is already in town and met with whistle-blower Brandon Coleman.

Coleman works as an addiction specialist who went public with his allegations in January. He says he never imagined he would get to take his complaints straight to the VA Secretary himself, but the two sat down Thursday for a face to face meeting.

"He sat down, he was very humble, and cordial, and said Brandon I just want to hear what you have to say, and he let me speak," said Brandon Coleman.

Before Coleman blew the whistle on the hospital's mishandling of suicidal veterans, Coleman ran a 52-week program aimed at helping at-risk vets overcome addiction.

In a rare one-on-one meeting, he told the VA Secretary Robert McDonald that he believes his program was canceled, leaving 71 vets in limbo because he came forward.

"He said that whistle-blowers would not be retaliated against, as I sat in front of him I waved my hand and said sir it is happening all over again, it's blatant retaliation, and we need to fix this," he said.

Coleman was placed on paid administrative leave in late January after coming forward with the complaints. Since then two other employees have come forward echoing the allegations they are still working at the VA hospital.

"With him being here the dialog is there, and that is what we need," said Coleman.

Coleman asked the secretary to make sure the 71 vets who were enrolled in his program, get the care they need.

Army Veteran Sean Sheridan is one example of the program's success.

"I just want to be fair, the VA has taken good care of me, they got me into this program, why they would let that program go away," said Sean Sheridan.

He and Coleman are still waiting for answers. They're counting on Secretary McDonald to hold Phoenix VA officials to the highest standards. McDonald took over as head of the VA last year and has vowed to clean house after the secret waiting list scandal.

"I think that he's caught up in the burocracy at a different level, and there's a lot of people that count on the VA to be mediocre to get their paychecks, and that is what is sad, I get his frustration, I believe that it's genuine, and I also think if anyone can fix it, it is him," said Coleman.
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