Former Petty Officer First Class Paula Pedene 

Paula L. Pedene, APR, Fellow PRSA, holds the Public Relations Society of America’s (PRSA) highest honors, including the PR Pro of the Year Award, the Western District Platinum Service Award, and five Silver Anvil Awards for Institutional Programs, Reputation Management, Public Service and Community Outreach. She is Chair of the PRSA Military and Veterans Task Force, a member of the College of Fellows strategic planning team, and a member of the PRSA Board of Ethics and Professional Standards.

Paula Pedene was one of the first Whistleblowers at the Phoenix Veterans Affairs (VA) Health Care System. In 2010, she collaborated with Dr. Sam Foote to expose funds mismanagement and a hostile work environment. The VA Office of the Inspector General sustained their allegations. When new leaders arrived, they retaliated against Pedene, removing her from her VA Public Affairs Officer role, where she had performed admirably for 21 years. They stripped her of her title, office, email, and phone and banished her to the basement library. While in the library, she saw the VA Wait Time Scandal unfolding and convinced Dr. Sam Foote and other trusted colleagues to expose the corruption once again. The disclosures were horrifying; they forced the resignation of the VA’s Secretary, the Under Secretary for Health, and others.  

After the scandal became national news, she was able to win her whistleblower case thanks to the  Office of Special Counsel and her legal team.

As part of her settlement, Pedene was then promoted to a Senior Communications Specialist, continuing her VA public relations counsel. She was a member of the external national media relations team and later became the acting director of Internal Communications for the Veterans Health Administration. She was then appointed as the Communications Team Lead to implement the VA MISSION Act law, which impacted the agency on several fronts. In this role, she worked with 320,000 staff, more than nine million enrolled veterans within VHA, national media, congressional and state leaders, and social media teams and stood up numerous unique elements for the project. Her efforts earned two prestigious Silver Anvils for public service and community outreach. She left the federal sector honorably with 40 years of service.

Pedene now serves as the Executive Director of the nonprofit Honoring America’s Veterans ( Here she collaborates with the HAV board to accomplish their mission “To help veterans heal as they reintegrate back into society from their military service.”  She also leads the Phoenix Veterans Day Parade team, creating this large-scale special event with more than 45,000 attendees. She is a guest columnist for the Arizona Republic with The Veterans Voice Column. She is the author of the book A Sacred Duty, her personal story of tragedy and triumph as a VA Whistleblower.  

Pedene is married to William Pedene, and they are blessed with two sons. She has a hereditary eye disease, which causes tunnel vision, and she is a disabled Navy Veteran. She attributes her success to a supportive family and her faith.