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Oliver Bruce Mitchell III

PO Box 1912
Long Beach, California
90801

U.S. POSTAL SERVICE CERTITIED MAIL RECEIPT # 70083230000233145968

10 July 2009
OSC
GLA VAMC

From: Oliver B. Mitchell III, Patient Services Assistant, Imaging Department, GLAVAMC
To: The U. S. Offrce Of Special Counsel (OSC), Washington D.C.
Attn: Ellen Oskley

Subj : ADDITIONAL DOCUMENTAIION

Per our conversation the following information is provided:

On November 3, 2008 during a Systems Redesign meeting the Service Chief stated "she was under
pressure from Central Office for the current patient backlog". She asked who we could get to delete the
orders for services from the backlog. A representative from PAX stated "no one was willing to purge
the system for fear of losing there job". The Service Chief then asked me to delete as many orders as
possible during my normal course of duties.

On February 9,2009 the curent Interim Service Chief Dr. Suzie El-Saden provided Diagnostic
Services (MR['s and X-Rays) to her 9 year old son using VA property. This incident was reported to
the OIG on March 24,2009.

On March 24,2009I filed an OIG Complaint with the Department of Veterans Affairs for Fraud, Waste
and Abuse. The complaint is against my current Interim Service Chief Dr. Suzie El-Saden and
immediate Supervisor Hannah Nishimoto. The basis of the complaint was for willful violation of
Central Offrce Department of Veterans Affairs for failing to provide Diagnostic Services (MR['s) to
approximately 10,000 to 20,000 veterans from the periods of 1999 to present.
(See attachment dated March 24,2009)

On March 30,2009I contacted the Chief of StaffDr. Dean Norman to convey my concerns over the
current status within my department. Additionally I wanted to discuss my findings relating to my OIG
Complaint. As a result of making contact with Dr. Norman he ordered the Employee Assistance
Program to contact me for *PTSD and work place stress".
(See email(s) dated March 31,2009)

On April 14,2009I received a response from the OIG for additional information.
(See attachment datedApril 14, 2009)
On an EEO Complaint with the Department of Veterans Affairs Office of
April 14,20A9I filed
Resolution Management for Discrimination based on Race, Coloq Gender and Hostile Work
Environment. Additionally, I also provided and filed my OIG complaint with EEO.

On May 14,2009I responded to the OIG request for additional information.


(See attachment dated May 14, 2009)

On May 22,2009I received another request from the OIG for additional information.
(See attachment dated May 22,2009)

On June 5,2009I was informed by the Interim Service Chief Dr. El-Saden and Donald Heuman from
Employee Labor Relations that I was being detailed until further notice. I was not given the
opportunity to have representation even though I requested to have a Union representative present. No
formal explanation was given to the reason for the detail. I was provided a copy of a Detail letter
which states "pending completion of an investigation into allegations of inappropriate conduct". To
date I haven't been counseled and informed as to what the "inappropriate conduct" pertains to. ['m
currently still detailed/reassigned to Primary Care. (See atiachment dated June 5, 2009)

As a result of continued harassment and work related stress I requested Sick Leave for June 8-9, 2009.
Additionally, I was hospitalized on June lI-12,2009 for what I deem to be work related stress. Upon
my discharge from the hospital I returned to work on Monday June 15, 2009 to my current detaill
reassignment.

On June 16,2A09I emailed Don Heuman requesting information for the alleged "inappropriate
conduct". (See email dated June 16, 2009)

On June 18,2009I phoned Donald Heuman seeking a response to my email dated June 16,2009. He
responded stating "he didn't have to tell me why I was being detailed".
(See email dated June 18, 2009)

On June 18, 2009 I reported Don's comments to the Union.

On June 21,2009I responded to the OIG request for additional information. In order to protect patient
privacy I haven't provided to OSC the names and ssn as previously requested from the OIG However I
did provide to OIG approximately 800 names and ssn of the approximately 10,000 or more Veterans
who were denied Diagnostic Services. (See attachment dated June 21, 2009)

On June 23,2009I emailed Mary Moore Manager Employee Labor Relations seeking information for
the alleged "inappropriate conduct". To date she has not responded. (See email dated June 23, 2009)

On June 25,2009 as a result of Don Heuman's comments and not receiving a response from Mary
Moore I requested to file an Unfair Labor Practice charge with the Federal Labor Relations Authority.

On July 9,2A09I met with Ann Perkins President of the Local AFGE who agreed to officially file my
complaint with the Federal Labor Relations Authority.
On July 21,20A9I phoned the Offrce of Resolution Management to inquire about the status of my EEO
Complaint. I was informed that the complaint had been partially accepted and that a notice was sent to
me on or about June 24,2009. I informed ORM that no such notice had been received. Shortly
thereafter I received an e-mail with an attachment containing my amended complaint.
(Please see attachment dated Jvne24,2009)

As a result of filing such complaints and involvement with my local Union office, Management has
repeatedly harassed me and denied any Union representation for any subsequent meetings and/or
counseling sessions. I have not received any statements or counseling(s) pertaining to the "alleged
inappropriate conduct" as stated in my Detail letter. No information has been provided to the Union.

If you should need to contact me you may do so at (562) 230-7142 or PO Box1912 Long Beach,
Califomia 90801.

I thank you for your time and assistance with this matter.

Oliver B. Mitchell III


DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS AFFAIRS
Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System
Imaging Service
l130L Wilshire Blvd
Los Angeles, California 90073

Frlol'd:&{rru fitrc#Eu PHONE: (310) 268-450s


FAX: (310) 268-3258

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NOTE: This message is intended for the use of the individual or entity for which it
is addressed and may contain information that is privileged, confidential or exempt
from disclosure under applicable Federal or State Law. If the reader of this
message is not the intended recipient, you are hereby advised that any
dissemination, distribution or duplication of this communication is strictly
prohibited. If you have received this communication in error, please notify us
"k
immediatelv.

THANK Y{I(/
Oliver B. Mitchell III
PO Box 1912
Long Beach, California
90801

24March2009
VAOIG
OBM

From: Oliver B. Mitchell III, Patient Services Assistant, Imaging Department,


WLA VA Healthcare System
To: Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General
Office of Resolution Management

Subj: FORMAL COMPLAINT OF FRAUD, WASTE AND ABUSE

As an Honorably discharged Veteran and an employee of the VA West Los Angeles it is


with great sadness that I must report suspected acts of fraud, waste and abuse within the
Imaging Department at this facility.

Since I began my employment with this department I have noticed questionable practices
ranging from excused absence from the work piace, comp andlor over time abuse,
suspected improper use of department funds, inflated department performance averages,
cancellation of MRI request and improper storage of patient data.

From 020308 to 060108 my immediate supervisor allowed a female co-worker to be


excused from the workplace for several hours at a time. This female co-worker was
allowed to do overtime for her excused absence. However my female co-worker was
also given the opportunity to attend school for 3-4 hours per day while on the clock and
rvas even allorved to do overtime for the hours missed. My immediate supervisor stated
my co-worker was working on the significant backlog that this department has. My
female co-worker was the only employee within the administrative staff allowed to do
overtirne, while my supervisor expected the rest of the staff to do double the amount of
work in an 8 hour period. As a result of my female co-worker being absent from the
workplace on a daily basis I did not receive my lunch break on a daily basis.

On May 5, 2008 I notified my supervisor about my missed lunches and my co-workers


behavior. Her response was to have a meeting on May 6, 2008 with my co-workers and
myself. No agreement and/or compromise were reached.

On June 3, 2008 I met with the local union office to discuss the issues. During my
meeting with the local union otfice it was suggested that I speak with Mary Moore
regarding my issues.
A complaint was submitted to Mary Moore, manager Employee Relations. On June 6,
2008 Ms. Moore stated I should contact the OIG hotline and file a complaint.

As a result of my speaking with Senior Management my immediate supervisor has


repeatedly both verbally and via e-mail asked me to leave the department. I have been
publically berated and embarrassed by my supervisor.

In June of 08 the department decided to lease a mobile MRI unit costing $40,000 dollars
a month. The unit is being leased to allow the department an opportunity to catch up on
the patient back log. We currently average about 2200 request for MRI's monthly. Our
current availability for MRI's is approximately 800 to 900 monthly. Thus creating a
backlog of patients each month. On several occasions I have approached the Department
Chief Suzie El-Saden with suggestions on how to increase the number of patients and
reduce cost and overhead. Each time I was met with hesitation and skepticsm.

We currently have a Saturday clinic in which we pay our technicians overtime. Our
Saturday clinic operates 8 hours a day. Cunently we do not use the mobile unit on
Saturday; utilizing the mobile unit on Saturday and opening up earlier would greatly
reduce the number of patients waiting for MRI's.

Dr. El-Saden has stated on several occasions that she would like for me to schedule all
patients within 30 days. I'm aware that the VA has a mandate that states patients should
receive care within 30 days. This clinic does not have the equipment or personnel to
accomplish such a task. Within a 30 day period we are closed 4 days thus leaving 26
days of operation. In order to meet the required benchmark set forth we would have to
perform 85 MRI's per day.

Since my employment within this department I have witnessed "valid request for MRI's"
being cancelled and./or deleted from the system as a means of reducing the number of
request for MRI's pending. This has been an on going trend since my employment here.
It is my opinion that the harassment, death threats and threats of termination I have
received are due to my vocal opposition to this practice. Canceling any patients request
for service is unjust, unfair and harmful to the health and well being of the patient.
Cancelling any patients request for service due to a failing administrative process is
criminal and negligent.

On several occasions I have received complaints from Veterans, their family members
and even Congressional and Senate inquiries. In February 2009 I received via voicemail
a complaint from the daughter of a Veteran who stated her father had come to the VA for
care and the doctor had submitted a request for a MRL The daughter expressed great
sadness and anger in our process, stating her father had suffered from a massive stroke
while waiting for his MRI appointment. I informed Dr. El-Saden of the voicemail and
her response was to give her the request and not speak of the matter, she stated "I already
have enough tort claims as it is". Shortly after this incident I noticed that more request
were being deleted from the system.
Being a Veteran myself I understand the complex issues surrounding our care, but
Veterans shouldn't be penalized for the mistakes of the clinic or the VA. As a scheduler I
strive to increase the number of Veterans served daily. As a result of this I have been
threatened with bodily harm and have received death threats on more than one occasion,
as to date I continue to receive death threats and even threats of termination from my
supervisor. Each incident has been reported with no action taken.

An24 March 2009 Dr. El-saden stated "the schedulers are the backbone of this clinic
without them our jobs would be chaos. Schedulers are caught between the doctors who
say more, more, more and the tech's who say no,no,no. Sometimes the tech's can
become a little hostile and will say and do things to get their way. They apologize for
their actions but deep down inside we know they really mean what they say". It is my
opinion that Dr. El-Saden made this comment for my benefit.

I should not have to endure death threats, threats of termination or a hostile work
environment as a result of effectively doing my job.

We have a storage closet that contains patient information such as medical records and x-
ray films. In addition to this we have cleaning supplies, old equipment, administrative
supplies and linen stored in this closet. This closet is accessible to anyone who has the
key for this building. This is not a Patient Privacy Protected area. On several occasions I
have addressed this matter with my supervisor only to be told that it isn't important.

On several occasions I have seen Non-Veterans receive MRI's as well as children. How
can we make time for friends and family but no time for Veteran's?

It is my opinion that this department has not been able to meet its mandated obligations
with regards to performance. The administrative process is flawed and has resulted in
deaths, continued pain and suffering and an overall decline in Veterans health due to the
lengthy wait for an MRI.

On27 March 2AA9lwas informed that the Saturday clinic would be cancelled until
further notice. The mobile unit was being terminated and all registry personnel were
being discontinued. It was a waste to use so much money to accomplish nothing. In the
10 months that we have had a mobile unit and registry personnel, we have spent half a
million dollars and have not repaired our broken administrative process.

If you should have any questions you may contact me at (562)230-7142, or via e-mail at
Mitchel.lIII.OliverB@va.qov. Documentation can be provided upon request. Please be
advised a full statement of harassment will be filed with the proper authority and or
Congressional Office.

Regards,

k
olivE$/Mitchell III
DepRRrmeNT oF VereRnrus ArretRs
Office of lnspector General
P.O. Box 50410
Washington DG 20091-0410

ln Reply Refer To: 53E/DS

April 14, 2009


Mr. Oliver Mitchell, lll
P.O. Box 1912
Long Beach, CA 90801
Dear Mr. Mitchell:
This concerns your correspondence dated March 24, 20A9, to the Office of lnspector
General.
Based on the information you provided regarding alleged quality of care issues, we would
like to ask the Department to conduct an inquiry into your allegations. However, it may
become apparent who made the allegations. lf you agree to the release of your identity,
please complete the enclosed form along with the name of the employee who was
allowed to attend class during her tour-of-duty, more specific information in regards to
the cancellation of MRI appointment, improper storage of patient data and fax it to 202*
565-7936, Attention Representative 86, or mail it in the envelope provided.

lf you believe you have been the subject of reprisal action for reporting fraud or
wrongdoing in your workplace, you may have protections through the Office of Special
Counsel (OSC). This independent agency enforces whistleblower protections and
certain other improper personnel action within the Federal government. You may contact
OSC toll-free at 800-872-9855, or you may write to OSC at 1730 M Street NW, Suite
300, Washington, DC 20036
The Whistleblower Protection Act of 1989 established the Office of Special Counsel
(OSC) as a separate entity to examine allegations of prohibited personnel practices,
including alleged reprisal for Whistleblowing. We are enclosing a copy of a Reprisal for
Whistleblowing fact sheet for your information. lf you believe a personnel action has
been taken against you because of any whistleblowing, you may contact OSC at (800)
872-9855 or you may write to them at:

lf you have not responded to this request by May 14, 2009, we will consider this matter
closed and willtake no further action.
U.S. Office of Special Counsel
1730 M Street, NW
Suite 300
Washington, DC 20036-4505
Sincerely,

CHRISTINA A. LAVINE
Director, Hotline Division
Enclosures
Page 1 of I

Mitchell lll, Oliver B.


From: Booker, Kevin E.
Sent: TuesdaY, March 31, 2009 10:30 AM
To: Mitchell lll, Oliver B.
Subject: RE: 11am Scheduled Appt on 03/31/09

Very wellthen.
I must admit however, that lwas very much looking forward to meeting you.
I did re-arrange some things in my schedule to accommodate you this morning
as i recognize how important this matter is to you.
Maybe you could just stop by for a few moments and say hello?
Bldg. 256, Ftoom #206.
Hope you come by.
Thanks,
Dr. B

From: MitchellIII, Oliver B.


Sent: Tuesday, March 31, 2009 10:10 AM
To: Booker, Kevin E.
Cc: Mitchell III, Oliver B.
Subject: 1lam Scheduled Appt on 03/31i09
Impoftance: High

Dr. Booker,

Upon my arrivalto work I researched the EAP. At this time the services of the EAP are not required.

Per our conversation I do not need the services of a Clinical Psychologist.

lm not experiencing any pain, loss of interest, sadness or any other psycho Symptoms'

I thank you for your time and your phone call.

Oliver Mitchell

a t1 1 t.t^rln
DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS AFFAIRS
Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System
Imaging Service
11301 Wilshire Blvd
Los Angeles, California 90073

FRoNr: 1LIf# lu ffcil€tl PHONE: (3r0) 268-450s


FAX: (310) 268-3258

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IF YOU DO NOT RECEIVE ALL TTM PAGES IN THIS FAX, PLEASE CALL
SENDER AS SOON AS POSSIBLE.

NOTE: This message is intended for the use of the individual or entity for which it
is addressed and may contain information that is privileged, confidential or exempt
from disclosure under applicable Federal or State Law. If the reader of this
message is not the intended recipient, you are hereby advised that any
dissemination, distribution or duplication of this communication is strictly
prohibited. If you have received this communication in error, please notify us
immediately.

THANK YOU.
Oliver Bruce Mitchell III
P. O. Box 1912
Long Beach, California
90801-1912

lZMay 2009
OIG
OBM

From: Oliver B. Mitchell III


To: Department of veterans Affairs, office of Inspector General
Attn: RepresentativeS6

Subj: RESPONSE TO LETTER DATED APRIL t4,Z}Ag

In response to letter from oIG dated April 14,2009,postmarked April2g,2009


and received on
May 2,2009 the following information is provided:

The co-worker and employee who attended school during working


hours is Bertha Villanueva.
To
*y knowledge she attended Santa Monica College lolated at 1900 pico BIvd. Santa Monica,
California 90405 (310) 434'4ooawith a major in Jafanese language. Additionally,
on the days
she wasn't attending school she was away from the work sectiJn
d-aily between ttre hours of
10am to 2pm. In her absence I was required to cover her assigned duiies
and work area. To my
knowledge she was given an opportunity to make up her hours missed
and compensated with
overtime for such hours.

The following photos have been provided to show the location of the
storage of patient medical
information to include (x-rays, charts, graphs and logbooks). This informjion
is located within
Bldg' 507 (MRI Clinic) in a storage closet. This is not a central location for the
storage of such
information.

From February 2008 to June 2008 the current interim chief stated "all
MRI orders on the backlog
list were to be scheduled as normal". From June 2008 to September 2008 the
current interim
chief stated "our clinic had the worst performance numbers -ompared to
other VA,s nationwide,,
she also stated "management stated no MRI orders could be cancelled
and/or deleted,,. In
September 2008 the current interim chief stated "only MRI orders 6 months
or less should be
scheduled". Additionally, in September 2008 the current interim chief informed
my co-worker
and myself that she had recently applied for the position of Department
Chairman and that our
performance would decide her fate.

Shortly thereafter I noticed that request for MRI's were being cancelled dating from
the year
2000 to November 2008. I approached the current interim cfiief about this mitter
in which she
responded "management was all over her and she had to do something,,.
To my knowledge the ordering clinician and patient were not notified the order was being
cancelled. In order to protect patient privacy the name, ssn, dob, and medical history have been
blackened to comply with HIPPA and VA local policy. The original documents remain within
the clinic in its original order.

If you should need additional information or have any comments or questions you may contact
me at (562)?30-7742 or via mail at PO Box l9l2lnngBeach, Ca 90801.

oliver
V III
{/itchell