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Whistleblower encouraged by interim leader as VA prepares to release report

The Veteran's Administration is expected to release a report on Monday that will give information on how many veterans are on lists and waiting for care at every V.A. hospital in the country.

Meanwhile, one of the "whistleblowers" who spoke up about the number of veterans who were on a waiting list at the Carl T. Hayden VA Medical Center in Phoenix, likes what she heard from the Acting Chief of the V.A. last week.

Paula Pedene served for 20 years as hospital spokeswoman. She then found out that hundreds of veterans were put on waiting lists there and their treatment was being delayed.

During a Saturday appearance on KTAR's "Arizona's Morning News Weekend" show, Pedene said, "I blew the whistle on the prior leadership team in 2011, and believe that whistleblower reprisal has happened to me."

She believes that her transfer to her current position working in the hospital library was the result of that retaliation. The V..A now says that 37 whistleblowers at VA hospitals around the nation were victims of retaliation.

During a visit to Phoenix last Thursday, acting V.A. chief Sloan Gibson said that whistleblowers should not face V.A. retaliation.

"I will not tolerate for a minute the intimidation of someone who raises an issue or a problem," Gibson said. "That's unacceptable behavior. From my perspective, that is unethical behavior, and it won't stand."

Pedene was crying on the air when she told KTAR hosts Bob McClay and Stacey Brooks that she was glad to hear Gibson's statement.

"That was my favorite quote. I mean I'm just crying," said Pedene. "I've been there so long, and my heart and soul are just in that place. It's so sad. If our staff are not happy, if our staff are not engaged, if our staff can't do their jobs, then what kind of care are they going to give to our patients?"

As for the lists that Pedene was talking about, the V.A. now says there were 1,700 veterans on that list. Eighteen of them have died, but the V.A. is not confirming that their deaths were due to a delay in their treatment.

Pedene said that she would like to get her old job back, but there's no indication that is going to happen. But she also said that Gibson appears to be a good leader, and may be just the person to turn things around at the V.A.

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About the Author


Years with the company: I started on January 2, 2006.

Education: I was born in San Antonio, Texas, but we moved to Phoenix when I was one-year-old in 1957. I grew up here and graduated from Alhambra High School and attended Phoenix College.

Family: I am married to my wife Rene', who is a librarian in the Washington school district. During free time, I may be found playing basketball in the driveway with my son, Devin. He's also keeping me busy with school, Little League, and playing in chess tournaments around the Valley.

Favorite food: Lots of favorite food, but our favorite restaurant is Fajitas.

Favorite spot in Arizona: The Little America Hotel in Flagstaff.

Favorite news memory: We have to go back to October 15, 1979. I was a country music air personality at KROP Radio in Brawley, California, when we had a 6.7 earthquake. Thankfully, there were no deaths and only minor injuries, but the entire community was pretty freaked out and listening to the station on their transistor radios. I would not want to go through an earthquake again, but it sure was a great night to work in radio and see how it can make a difference in people's lives.

First job: Working as a stringer for 'The Arizona Republic' at high school football games. My first real job was flipping burgers at the old Sandy's Hamburgers at 51st Avenue and Indian School Road. My first radio job was as announcer at KALJ radio in Yuma in 1977.

First concert: Doug Oldham gospel concert in the 1970s at the old East High School in Phoenix.

Favorite sports team: Phoenix Roadrunners minor league hockey. My dad took me to a game when I was in grade school, and I was hooked. I wanted to be a radio hockey play-by-play man. I used to take my cassette recorder and sit up in the rafters of the Coliseum and do play-by-play. It was great later in life to also take my son to Roadrunners games. Too bad the team just folded, I'll miss them. (Going to the Coyotes is fun, but they're not "my" team.)

Outside interests: My family and I are active in our church - Northern Hills Community Church in Phoenix. We enjoy going to movies, sporting events, and like to vacation at the Beach Cottages in the Pacific Beach area of San Diego. And I love to play catch, basketball, football with my son.

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