Jared Kinnaman, a vocational rehabilitation counselor and whistleblower at the Phoenix Department of Veterans Affairs medical center, is calling for the resignation of Phoenix interim director Glen Grippen, who replaced Sharon Helman, and Secretary Robert McDonald.
In two letters sent out Friday, Kinnaman recounted his struggle and efforts to promote accountability at the Phoenix VA, which so far have amounted to very little, despite promises of reform from the leadership. Still, the long list of unacceptable practices continues unabated at the hospital.
“They need to be held accountable for their lying,” Kinnaman, a Marine Corps combat veteran, told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “In the end, they’re not hurting anyone but the veterans. I’m a Marine Corps combat veteran, and I’m tired of sitting back and watching my brothers and sisters get piss-poor treatment when we should be leading the industry.”
For Kinnaman, enough is enough. “I and several other whistleblowers have brought to you and your leadership staff members on numerous occasions, factual and undeniable evidence that you and your staff have not resolved,” Kinnaman wrote in the letter to Grippen. “Instead, we have received countless forms of harassment, defamation, and threats while working and receiving care at this medical facility.”
According to Kinnaman, one of the most egregious examples of dangerous behavior at Phoenix is understaffing in the emergency room. The leadership has long known of the problem, having been informed numerous times that this long-standing scenario is like a ticking time bomb that threatens the safety of veterans and their family members.
The Phoenix VA has maintained from the very start that the ER is staffed 24/7 by a licensed social worker. However, The Washington Times recently obtained an email chain indicating the VA is scrambling to fill all the scheduling gaps, essentially driving their employees to the breaking point. Even officials appeared shocked. According to the emails, the problem was copied to Grippen, the current director, but whether any practices changed as a result is unknown.
One employee, who was the only volunteer to fill all the gaps, accumulated 110 overtime hours over the course of a single pay period. In one instance, the employee took a two-hour break over a 24-hour shift. However, a spokeswoman for the hospital told The Washington Times records show the employee was only paid for 11 hours of overtime.
An email from assistant chief of social work Michael A. Leon and obtained by TheDCNF demonstrates lengthy gaps needing to be filled by a social worker in the ER over a week’s period in May.
“Personally, I had two of my coworkers bring a veteran who was need of treatment and this veteran was told to seek community resources by the social worker present in the ER room,” Kinnaman told TheDCNF. “They don’t hold each other accountable because there’s nothing to gain from that.”
Aside from the ER, the Human Resources department at Phoenix also has staffing problems, specifically with retention and a general lack of the necessary employee levels.
The response to whistleblowers raising the issue with leadership, Kinnaman says, has included gag orders, character assassinations and illegal office searches.
Other whistleblowers, like Lisa Tadano, have had their medical records viewed by staff who not only had no business looking at her records, but were not even connected to her treatment at the facility. Penny Miller, the same individual who opened Tadano’s records, also accessed the records of noted whistleblower Brandon Coleman. (RELATED: Most Recent Phoenix VA Whistleblower Suffers Retaliation After Filing Claim)
“At this time I am calling for your resignation as the Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs effective immediately,” Kinnaman stated. “We need strong steady leadership that is moral, ethical, and honest to assist frontline employees in fixing the Department of Veterans Affairs and that is currently not happening under your tutelage.”