Physical courage — something you find on athletic fields, for example — is very common, but moral courage is not. It is not easy to stand up for what is right when that might mean losing one’s job, one’s family or even one’s life. It is far easier to keep quiet and let things slide.
Alice von Hildebrand (91), philosopher and theologian
This recent quote by von Hildebrand reminds us that it is not easy for anyone to confront evil deeds when we know that evil may prevail. Retaliation for speaking out is common at the VA nationally. Yet some people in Phoenix did confront evil and because of them, things should get better for thousands of people.
Paula Pedene, a former VA spokesperson, reported financial mismanagement, and was removed from her $106,000-a-year job and exiled to a basement desk.
Damian Reese, a program analyst, complained to management about the wait-times and “had his annual performance rating downgraded by a senior official with knowledge of his email.”
Katherine Mitchell was placed on administrative leave–but after the expose, received the VA’s public servant award last month. The Republic writes, “Mitchell files a confidential complaint intended for the VA Office of Inspector General, channeled through Arizona Sen. John McCain’s office. Her list of concerns instead goes to the Office of Congressional and Legislative Affairs and eventually back to the VA, which responds in February 2013.” Her video.
Dr. Sam Foote (61) started the national investigation (CNN video) by filing a complaint with the VA OIG. He had complained to the OIG about a different administrator in 2011–who then quit. AZ Republic: In early 2013, Foote lodged a complaint against another executive, but this time, he said, “They started coming after me.” Hours and caseloads increased, and Foote said he began to feel harassed. A planned 2015 retirement no longer seemed possible. He set a new date of Dec. 31, 2013 .” He secretly co-operated with the Arizona Republic until his retirement and he was safe to contact members of Congress and go very public. Shades of Watergate. The story is here.
*****CNN Timeline--national VA scandals from 1921
It’s sickening that Helman got off on the wait-times scandal but she’s gone. And the man who gave her lavish gifts has lost his job too.
Dr. Foote, has, I believe, provided the VA with the names of some of the dirty rats at Phoenix’s VA. I hope he’ll devote the rest of his life to the cause of reform at the VA.
It’s good to know that everyone isn’t like the guys in the cartoon. So, thank you to the courageous citizens and the journalists who told your stories–“You did good!”