The Phoenix VA Whistle-blowers


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.  


Ms. Pedene Has a new VA job as part of her settlement

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.”


Dr. Mitchell

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.

Pedene, Mitchell, Reese, have received confidential settlements/ video (9/14).


He’s putting himself “out there” for veterans.

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.

These women also helped out:  Pauline DeWenter, scheduler video (6/14). A confession. K.J. Sloan, a clinical social worker video  (6/14)  She explains the scam.

*****Timeline: VA in Crisis

*****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!”




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6 Responses to The Phoenix VA Whistle-blowers

  1. SPrice says:

    I once put my job on the line to help someone get a transplant. I cost the HMO I worked for $250,000. They waited a while then put me in an 8X10 office with no windows knowing I was claustrophobic, and that was just the start.

    Every year on Thanksgiving, I got a call from the man I’d helped. It always said the same
    thing, “My family and I are sitting around the table thanking the Lord for you”.

    And that one call, was worth the world to me because it told me I had done the right thing and I was a good person. But one day the calls stopped, and I no longer know, because I don’t know if I would do it again.

    • Kiedove says:

      Well, it’s great that your patient stayed in touch for a time affirming that you did the right thing and I’m sure you’d do it again.

  2. steve says:

    Hopefully the eradication of the cockroaches in the regional offices will continue. Thanks to all of the people who had the moral courage, intestinal fortitude and kinistetic gut feeling to report the shitbirds who are screwing veterans over. I SALUTE you!!!!

  3. SquidlyOne says:

    choice cards are a bad joke. This is what Bernie Sanders had to say about HCVets:

    “I don’t think there is any great secret that VA hospitals all over this country are hurting and to take money away from already underfunded areas to deal with this tragedy, people
    are going to be worse off”

    “I would just add to what Mr. Weidman says, and correct me if I’m wrong, if the VA does the right thing and they reach out to all of the veterans, the 10 percent who are infected are treated, you must be talking about astronomical numbers that there is no way on God’s green Earth you can deal with within the budget. Mr. Brownstein or Dr. DiBisceglie, is that correct?”

    Click to access hepc2.pdf

    We got NO money honey only the shaft and now we are dying!

  4. Frank says:

    It was, of course, a breach of VA “policy” for VA to retaliate against whistleblowers. Nevertheless, VA’s knee-jerk reaction was to stomp them with hob-nailed boots. Because VA was in the spotlight, and had been caught red-handed, they were ultimately forced to admit error, and settle with Padene, Mitchell, Foote, Reese, et al.

    What percentage of the appeals backlog is due to VA’s storied reluctance to admit error?

  5. hepper74 says:

    Bravo and many thanks for having the internal fortitude and coming forward. If there was more transparency then perhaps great things could indeed happen.

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