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About the Book

A SACRED DUTY is the true, first-person account of Paula Pedene, a visually-impaired, 54-year-old decorated Navy veteran who endured a campaign to destroy her personally and professionally before summoning the strength to battle back and help expose a conspiracy and cover-up that outraged the nation.

In 2010, Paula and a colleague blew the whistle on their bosses for financial mismanagement, sexual harassment, and workplace hostility at a Veterans Affairs hospital in Phoenix. After the top two leaders were ousted and a new administration arrived, she hoped it would mark a “fresh start” for the facility. But the incoming leadership, driven by merciless ambition and the sense they were untouchable, knew what she had done – and were determined not to let it happen to them.

What followed was an unrelenting two-year crusade whose goal was to break her. Paula’s superiors manufactured charges against her – knowing there was proof those charges were false. They rigged an investigative process, turning it into a kangaroo court-like weapon against her. They destroyed evidence. They stoked unfounded rumors about her, robbed her of due process, and denied her the right to face – or even know – her accusers. On the rare occasions when her letters did get a response, they denied, deflected, and lied to ensure the truth remained hidden.

It worked. Little by little, she started to unravel. Her depression, long under control, roared back. She began drinking. Her medical and legal bills mounted. Her strong faith was shaken. It took a toll on her family, too, as her marriage faced increasing stress, and she became more and more distant from her sons – both of whom were facing their own emotional crises.


About the Authors

Ms. Pedene is an award-winning public relations professional with 28 years of experience at the VA. She served honorably in the U.S. Navy as a broadcast journalist for over eleven years. At present, Ms. Pedene serves as a Senior Communications Specialist assigned to VA Central Office.

She made her first protected disclosures in 2010, revealing evidence of a hostile work environment and funds mismanagement. Those allegations were sustained by the VA Office of Inspector General (OIG), but by 2012, VA leaders targeted her with several meritless retaliatory investigations, including criminal charges. Ms. Pedene stood and fought, while enduring loss of her position, title, and job duties. But, her reassignment to the basement for nearly two years became a blessing in disguise.

While banished to the basement, she learned of patient wait list falsification, excessive delays in patient care, false vesting of patients, failure to reassign patients after provider departures, and other inappropriate leadership decisions. She made these disclosures to several internal venues including the OIG and the Office of the Medical Inspector, but her complaints fell on deaf ears. Finally, in 2014, she collaborated with other whistleblowers, the House Veterans Affairs Committee, and the media to expose the Phoenix VA Wait Time Scandal.

Ms. Pedene later prevailed in a favorable settlement of her retaliation claims, but she still faces unresolved threats to her livelihood, including a frivolous OIG law enforcement investigation, and a frivolous Office of Accountability and Whistleblower Protection administrative investigation. She has a pending retaliation complaint before OSC.

Doug Williams is a playwright, novelist, and award-winning screenwriter. His script based on the life of Texas Congresswoman Barbara Jordan has been recognized in over 25 film festivals, winning six best screenplay awards, and his plays have been produced in New York and regionally. Critics compared his most recent novel, the political thriller Nowhere Man, to Homeland and House of Cards. He is also a former journalist and served as a press secretary in the U.S. Senate. Williams co-authored A Sacred Duty with Paula Pedene. 
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“At its core, A SACRED DUTY is Paula’s  journey as a Whistleblower.  She takes us through the ordeal of when she found herself at war with an institution bent on erasing her. More than that, however, in confronting this particular Goliath, Paula Pedene discovered the David within her.”

 – Roger French, Employee Representative


Paula Pedene was a 20-year employee at the hospital who oversaw everything from news releases to the hospital newsletter to the annual veteran’s day parade. In 2010, Pedene joined a group that complained to the VA’s upper management about the phoenix hospital’s director. They alleged that the director had allowed budget shortfalls and berated subordinates. And it seemed to work. VA’s inspector general investigated and found an 11 million shortfall in the hospital’s budget. The director retired voluntarily.  ‘I felt we had actually done the right thing,’ Pedene said. But that turned out to be the beginning of her troubles, not the end.”

-David Fahrenthold, The Washington Post