U.S. Senate committee vows to end culture of whistleblower retaliation at VA

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Tuesday's hearing before the U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs reignited anger and frustration directed at the Veterans Health Administration. (Source: www.hsgac.senate.gov) Tuesday's hearing before the U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs reignited anger and frustration directed at the Veterans Health Administration. (Source: www.hsgac.senate.gov)
MESA, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) -

In the wake of the VA health care scandal that broke right here in the Valley, many veterans had a lot of questions about wait times and accountability. Tuesday, those who blew the whistle at the VA were on Capitol Hill as the U.S. Senate looked for answers about retaliation. 

Tuesday's hearing was the second such hearing the Senate committee has held this summer. Their goal is twofold. The committee wants to listen to as many stories as possible, and then craft solutions that will hopefully end a culture of whistleblower retaliation at the VA.

The hearing before the U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs reignited anger and frustration directed at the Veterans Health Administration.

[WATCH: Video of the full committee hearing on www.hsgac.senate.gov]

"Who did this?" committee chairman Sen. Ron Johnson, R-WI, demanded of the VA officials who were testifying. "I wanna know, this committee wants to know, who is involved in this?"

"It's appalling, frankly," added Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H.

Elected leaders were upset that VA employees were allegedly retaliated against after speaking up about corruption, mismanagement or inadequate VA for veterans care.

"This is rampant," Johnson said. "This is a problem."

We spoke to Brandon Coleman, a Phoenix VA whistleblower, before he left for D.C. to testify during Tuesday's hearing.

"I came forward because suicidal veterans were walking out of the hospital," Coleman said before his trip.

"Today, I am calling on the committee to ask for a DOJ investigation into the improper accessing of my HIPPA-protected veteran treatment records as retaliatory acts and a criminal act," he said during Tuesday's hearing.

The Office of Special Counsel, a nonpartisan government arm that investigates claims of retaliation against federal employees, reports it received 4,000 complaints so far in 2015. VA employees account for 1,400, or 35 percent, of them.

"It seems like the message being sent is, 'Hey, keep covering everything up because you won't lose your job,'" Ayotte added during her comments.

Sen. John McCain is also a member of the committee. 

"We will do everything we can to hold them accountable," he said.

Johnson's staff is conducting its own investigation into whistleblower retaliation. VA employees can safely and confidentially report wrongdoing to Congress by emailing whistleblower@ronjohnson.senate.gov.

Copyright 2015 KPHO/KTVK (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.

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