Waiting time whistleblower Phoenix VA releases new book about scandal

“I knew there would be some risk, I didn’t know how big the risk would be, that was the scary part,” said Paula Pedene.

Just over eight years have passed since Pedene, a decorated Navy veteran, helped expose wait times at Phoenix Veterans Affairs Hospital.

“I’m still scared of some things, I’m still battling depression, but I think the book did a great job of giving me a chance to heal and move forward,” Pedene said.

In her new book “A Sacred Journey,” Pedene shares the perspective of what it took to get the crucial details to the public. Recalling the ridicule and attacks on her reputation along the way. How those hiding from the truth tried everything to discredit she and her colleagues.

“For two years, it was a stomach sleeper almost every day,” Pedene said.

She and others revealed in 2014 that VA officials lied to the federal government about how long it took vets to schedule an appointment. The reason was that it missed out on the wage bonuses the hospital received because it kept waiting times short.

“They knew the data they could report that would make them look good, and they hid the data that would make them look bad,” said Pedene, who worked in public relations for the VA hospital at the time.

Data that ultimately showed an average waiting time of 115 days. It eventually came with dire consequences and the announcement that at least 40 veterans died while waiting for an appointment. By some estimates, that number is now much higher.

“We thought it was only in Phoenix, and by the time the OIG finally investigated, there were 111 VA facilities using the same methodology and manipulating the wait time data to make them look good and delay care for our veterans said Pedene.

She hopes her account of it all inspires more to speak the truth to power, as she continues to fight for veterans’ rights at every turn.

“I think there’s a calling that I think I have to do this, it’s part of what I have to do, I feel the need to do this,” said Pedene.

Pedene has a speaking engagement and signing at the American Legion Post 44 in Scottsdale on June 28.

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