Today, the U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC) honored three VA employees with its Public Servant of the Year award. The VA whistleblowers worked directly with OSC to uncover issues with patient care at the Phoenix, Arizona, and Jackson, Mississippi, VA Medical Centers.
The three awardees are:
- Dr. Katherine Mitchell, who disclosed critical understaffing and inadequate triage training at the Phoenix VA medical center’s emergency room and other problems.
- Dr. Phyllis Hollenbeck, who blew the whistle on chronic understaffing at the Jackson VA medical center, problems with the supervision of nurse practitioners, and other issues in early 2013.
- Dr. Charles Sherwood, who brought forward concerns of improper practices in the Jackson VA medical center’s radiology department.
The OSC wasn’t alone in recognizing the efforts of the three physicians. VA’s Deputy Secretary Sloan Gibson was on hand during the award ceremony to acknowledge their contributions to Veterans by bringing to light improper practices and conditions that were affecting patient care.
“While we still have vast work to do, I believe that it’s because of Dr. Katherine Mitchell that access to care in Phoenix is beginning to improve,” Gibson said. “I believe it’s because of Dr. Phyllis Hollenbeck and Dr. Charles Sherwood that Veterans are beginning to receive better care in Mississippi.”
Special Counsel Carolyn Lerner echoed Gibson’s remarks and highlighted VA’s determination to listen and protect its whistleblowers.
“Although there is still work to be done, the new leadership at the VA has swiftly taken corrective actions to improve access to care and to hold individuals accountable,” Lerner said. “The VA has also renewed its commitment to listen to employees who speak out.”
Gibson also expanded on MyVA — the largest department-wide transformation in VA’s history – and the importance of “building an organization defined by Veteran outcomes and the satisfaction of those we serve.”
“So to all three of you, on behalf of the entire Department and all the Veterans we serve, thank you for living our values and being an example to all of us,” he said.
You can read Deputy Secretary Gibson’s remarks here.