VA employees allowed to work excessive overtime

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MESA, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) -

Problems at the Phoenix VA are well-known. And now, we're learning that some employees are being allowed to work enormous amounts of overtime.

One example is a social worker working more than double the normal hours for one pay period. That social worker's job is helping suicidal veterans.

"It's not OK. It's ethically not OK, and it continues to happen at the Phoenix VA today," said whistleblower Brandon Coleman. It's a grave concern that he says he has about the amount of overtime allowed in the emergency department. "During his normal shifts he couldn't stay awake, and in one pay period he worked 95 hours of overtime," Coleman said of a colleague.

Coleman, says the 75-year-old employee, at times, incurred 110 hours of overtime in just one pay period last year. We obtained an email chain written by VA supervisors and leaked from another whistleblower, in which they expressed "extremely suspect" practices concerning "safety issues" and calling for "alert and effective employees."

The correspondence went all the way to top managers and nothing was done about it, Coleman said. "They said that there was no wrongdoing, and that even though it's not appropriate to have a social worker working that many hours, it's not against the law," he said. 

When it comes to patient safety, especially suicidal ones, Coleman says there's simply no way one human being can operate effectively on that little sleep. He says because the hospital is so short-staffed, and few offer to work weekend shifts, they take what they can get.

Coleman says the urgent messages about overtime concerns were dismissed, he says, by none other than top VA executive Doctor Darren Deering a year ago. Deering is still employed by the VA, and only this week received a "notice of proposed removal."

Director Deborah Amdur is now looking into the alleged overtime issue. We are awaiting comment on the claims.

Copyright 2016 KPHO/KTVK (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.


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