A therapist at the Phoenix VA medical center is apologizing for dressing up like whistleblower Brandon Coleman, who is also a disabled veteran.
Therapist Jeremy Pottle, along with his supervisor Lisa Benner, were both suspended after hospital leadership became aware Pottle’s costume and the fact Benner allowed him to wear it all day at the office.
As a gag, Pottle dressed up in a blonde wig with a ponytail, drew tattoos on his arms and colored his beard blond. One co-worker reportedly said that Pottle also used a cane and stuffed a pillow under his shirt to portray a beer belly.
As a disabled veteran, Coleman uses a cane because of injuries he suffered while on active-duty with the Marine Corps. To fix his right foot, he had to undergo 9 surgeries, 6 of which took place at the Phoenix VA center.
Pottle says he did not have a cane as part of the costume, but he apologized for the incident and said he dresses up as a different co-worker every year.
“I was surprised he was offended, but if he’s offended than it’s not funny,” Pottle told AZFamily. “I had no ill intent. I hope this apology means something.”
The incident disturbed Coleman so much he contacted VA Secretary Robert McDonald.
“This is disturbing and utterly embarrassing on many levels,” Coleman wrote in a letter to McDonald last week. “I will say of all the retaliation that has been shown to me by employees at the Phoenix VA over the past year to include the many acts by director Glen Grippen this most recent stunt has hurt me personally more than anything else. Many of these same supervisors who retaliated against me are involved in allowing Mr. Pottle to dress as me.”
Coleman asked McDonald to start an investigation into the costume debacle and to add the incident to his Office of Special Counsel file.
“I am embarrassed at the very thought of Mr. Pottle possibly wearing a fake USMC tattoo,” Coleman added. “This is an honor I EARNED by serving my country and Mr. Pottle has no right to dress up as me and ever pretend to be a USMC veteran, or disabled veteran of any sort as he did not serve in any branch in the United States Military.”
It is unclear when or whether Pottle will return back to work.