The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

VA whistleblowers honored as public servants of the year

Federal employee whistleblowers, too often an harassed segment of the workforce, were praised Wednesday by the agency responsible for protecting them.

The Office of Special Counsel (OSC) honored three Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) whistleblowers Wednesday, all physicians who had key roles in uncovering major issues at VA facilities.

Because they and other whistleblowers came forward, problems such as the cover-up of long wait times for veterans seeking medical care were exposed.  The wait-time scandal led to the resignation of the VA secretary and legislation providing the department with additional resources to meet patient needs.

The whistleblowers honored with OSC’s Public Servant of the Year Award were:

  • Katherine Mitchell, who “disclosed critical understaffing and inadequate triage training in the Phoenix VA medical center’s emergency room,” according to an OSC statement.
  • Phyllis Hollenbeck, who “blew the whistle on chronic understaffing at the Jackson (Miss.) VA medical center [and] problems with the supervision of nurse practitioners.”
  • Charles Sherwood, who “brought forward concerns [about] improper practices in the Jackson VA medical center’s radiology department.”

Special Counsel Carolyn Lerner said the three honorees “turned the public spotlight on serious threats to patient health and safety at the Phoenix and Jackson, Mississippi VA Medical Centers. Because of their efforts, veterans are now far more likely to receive the treatment they deserve.”

“They are part of a much larger group of whistleblowers,” she added, “who have contributed to much-needed reforms at the Veterans Health Administration.”