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In Ms. Riviello’s case, the patient had been in restraints for seven hours when the nurse said she was no longer a threat and could have been released after two hours.

“When the patient was complaining of pain and boils, we couldn’t not take her out anymore. I called my supervisor and said we needed to take her out and give her basic care,” she said. “When they found out she had been released, they wanted to put her back in restraints, but the nurses said no.”

The February incident was similar — except no nurses stepped forward to help the woman, Ms. Riviello said, which left her in restraints throughout the holiday weekend.

Because the patient was so unpredictable, if she had to be placed in restraints again to prevent harm to herself or others, a doctor would have had to come in and evaluate her within an hour according to VA policy, Ms. Riviello said. Since doctors didn’t want to possibly be disturbed in the middle of the night during a holiday weekend, she said, they just kept the patient in restraints for an extended time.

“To put someone in restraints and to keep them in restraints for any length of time or predetermined length of time is inhumane and it is against policy,” she said. “The leadership has changed over the last three years and has taken veteran-centered care and made it more physician-driven and for the physicians’ convenience.”

The special counsel's office declined to comment on its ongoing investigation into the VA treatment of whistleblowers.

Cheri Cannon, a partner at Tully Rinckey PLLC who is representing Ms. Riviello, said it may take awhile for the special counsel's office to finish investigating Ms. Riviello’s case because it has at least 50 others.