The Eastern Colorado VA Healthcare System has a new director. The Department of Veterans Affairs appointed Sallie Houser-Hanfelder to the job just last month. Houser-Hanfelder will oversee healthcare for more than 80,000 veterans and an $800 million-dollar operating budget, and she has worked for the VA for three decades. Her most recent position prior to the appointment was overseeing daily operations for the Central Texas VA Healthcare System.
The Denver VA has been operating with an interim director, Carolyn Adams, since April. Director Lynette Roff retired in February after a whistleblower reported there was a hidden waiting list for patients in the hospital sleep clinic.
The whistleblower, Tommy Belinski, had worked for the VA from 2011 to 2014 and felt he needed to come forward on behalf of the veterans. Some patients on the secret wait list were waiting for testing for disorders that can be fatal, such as sleep apnea. Belinski told 9News that during late 2011, he received a paper list of 508 sleep clinic patients who were not yet scheduled, which is a violation of a VA policy that was enacted in 2010 requiring all VA facilities use the electronic waiting list for patients. In May 2012, he was told to transfer those names onto the VA’s official Electronic Wait List.
Back in April, 9News reported that Colorado Congressman Mike Coffman requested a more in-depth investigation into the Denver Veterans Affairs Hospital after the former director made what he deemed to be “veiled threats” to people who could potentially be whistleblowers there. During a January employee meeting that was recorded, Adams told employees that if they went to the media, the VA would not “support” or help them if they ran into trouble.
Coffman was upset by Roff’s words, saying that whistleblowers across the VA system deserve nothing but gratitude. Without them, Coffman feels that many of the worst cases of mismanagement and corruption would have remained a secret.
The VA currently has a national Whistleblower Protection Program in place. Under the program, federal agencies are prohibited from taking or threatening to take action against an employee because he or she has disclosed wrongdoing. Coffman wants to expand the act and is a co-sponsor of a bill that would set mandatory penalties for VA employees who try to retaliate against whistleblowers. He also made a promise to watch out for and protect any veteran who is willing to come forward with evidence of wrongdoing occurring in the Department of Veterans Affairs.
If you or someone you care about is a whistleblower who needs legal help, please contact Zaner Harden Law today by calling 303-563-5354 for a confidential discussion of your case.