'VA is LYING' proclaims new billboard near VA Medical Center in Phoenix

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The billboard went up just blocks from the Phoenix VA Medical Center Monday. (Source: KPHO/KTVK) The billboard went up just blocks from the Phoenix VA Medical Center Monday. (Source: KPHO/KTVK)
(Source: KPHO/KTVK) (Source: KPHO/KTVK)
(Source: KPHO/KTVK) (Source: KPHO/KTVK)
MESA, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) -

A new billboard decrying the care veterans receive went up near the Phoenix VA Health Care System Monday. The message? "VA is LYING! Veterans are DYING!"

The billboard is located on Indian School Road near Eighth Street. It's a strategic location. The Carl T. Hayden VA Medical Center is at 650 E. Indian School Road.

The VA scandal that blew up nationwide last year has its roots in Phoenix, where dozens of veterans died while waiting for care.

An internal audit spawned by revelations of what had been going on in Phoenix revealed that VA hospitals throughout the country had systemic issues that resulted in serious delays in care for more than 120,000 vets.

Two days after findings by that audit were released, the FBI opened a criminal investigation.

A White House investigation found "significant and chronic system failures," as well as a "corrosive culture" in the VA.

Army veteran Ron Nesler of Harmony, IN is behind the VA is LYING Facebook group, which sponsored the billboard.  

"The VA is LYING group was founded because we believe that U.S. military veterans are America's most noble and deserving citizens, and that veterans are owed respect, honesty and safe health care from VA, as promised to us when we served," Nesler said. "We contend that VA is wildly corrupt and is currently operated for the profit and luxury of VA employees, VA contractors and certain corrupt politicians. We hold that every member of Congress knows this.

"Our group's purpose is to raise public awareness of the corruption at VA, and thereby to force Congress and VA officials to clean things up," he continued. "Many of us support shutting down VA health care completely and issuing veterans a Medicare-style health care card with no co-pays and a prescription benefit, very similar to what members of Congress have."

The new Phoenix billboard is not the only one of its kind.

"They've been popping up nationwide," VA whistleblower Brandon Coleman said. "This is for the veterans that are no longer able to speak."

The goal is accountability, according to Coleman. A Marine vet, Coleman used to be an addiction therapist at the hospital.

"Accountability goes all the way to the top, from janitors and food service workers up to directors," he said. "When directors break the law such as they're doing here, they need to be held accountable just like everyone else."

The money for the "VA is LYING" billboards in Phoenix and other cities came from a crowdfunding campaign.

"The proceeds that brought this billboard about were primarily raised by Phoenix VA employees who were too scared to speak out for fear of being retaliated against, however, they're donating on the Go Fund Me page," Coleman explained.

The campaign has raised more than $30,000 in nine months.

"We were able to raise enough money to put the billboard so the administrators at the Phoenix VA could see it every day when they walk into their office to know that we're not going anywhere until we can bring accountability to ground zero," Coleman said. "Phoenix is ground zero with everything going on with the VA."

In coming forward about the deep-seated issues at the VA, whistleblowers like Coleman have had to face potential reprisal.

Last month, a Senate committee held a hearing, the second of its kind, to deal with the culture of whistleblower retaliation at the VA

Coleman testified.

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

In May, Thomas Murphy took his own life on the property of the Phoenix VA administrative offices.

"Thanks for nothing VA," Murphy wrote in his suicide note. He blamed the VA for doing nothing to help him with his chronic pain and said the VA wanted to take away the pain medication he was receiving.

"I believe it was a symbolic act and that he did it because he would want us to talk about it," Coleman said two weeks later.

He mentioned Murphy's death and his suicide note when talking about the new billboard.

[RELATED: Another lawsuit accuses Phoenix VA of negligent care]

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

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