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PEORIA, Ill. (AP) - U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois says whistleblowers in the Department of Veterans Affairs must be protected from firing and demotion.

The (Peoria) Journal Star reports the Senate's No. 2 Democrat made the remarks Friday during a meeting with veterans' organizations in Peoria.

Durbin says the VA's culture needs to change. He says the VA secretary should reassure employees they won't be punished for telling their superiors about problems.

There's been a growing public outcry over patients dying while awaiting VA treatment and mounting evidence workers falsified or omitted appointment schedules to hide frequent, long delays.

About 65 percent of VA senior executives got performance bonuses last year despite widespread treatment delays and preventable deaths at VA hospitals and clinics.

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Information from: Journal Star, http://pjstar.com

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