August 2020, I was informed that I had been hired with a September 2020 start date. The same day, I contacted my Department of Veterans Affairs Primary Care Doctor for a workplace accommodation letter. The doctor and I discussed my problems and what aids and equipment I need to be more productive in a work environment, which during COVID mandates includes my inability to wear a mask. The doctor wrote a workplace accommodation letter, and the employer and I have worked out a workplace accommodation. I hope to work for the company on the 11th of January 2021.
July 2020, I was arrested by the VA Police and charged with non-compliance to signage by not wearing a mask. I spent more than 40-minutes declaring my problems and safety issues with wearing a mask. I begged the VA Police, who were harassing me, witnessed by more than 8 VA Officers, and more than 30-employees and other veterans, to no avail. I was injured when the VA Police hit my back and collapsed to the floor due to my spinal injuries; this is normal for my injuries. It is important to note that I was wearing the face shield that I was informed had to be worn instead of a mask when I was arrested. Yet, even the face shield was inaccurate information provided by the VA Police when they started to harass me and make a scene in the VA ED Waiting area.
On the 08th of December 2020, I am arrested, again injured. This time was the first time I was accused of “faking my injuries,” additional jokes were made about me collapsing, as well as many other disparaging comments made during the arrest. All this abuse came after I had already worked out a solution to access care at the VA with Jennifer, the head of patient advocacy, which had worked for an emergency room visit in early November. I had called the VA Hospital Radiology Department to ensure the deal was still acceptable, and I would not have any issues. Yet, the radiology supervisor called the VA Police to report a patient causing problems in the radiological department.
On the 10th of December 2020, I approach the VA to file a complaint about the treatment received on the 08th of December and visit the ER. I am stopped by a zealous supervisor of the COVID testing at the South Entrance to the VA. I am bodily removed from the VA, injured, arrested, and all this after spending two days flat on my back due to pain from the 08th of December arrest and injury. Under EMTALA, the Federal Emergency medicine law, this is illegal, as was the VA’s detention and removal in July 2020.
These are all provable facts. I have documented my treatment and my proactive approach to correcting the issues experienced very closely because the VA continues to claim I am “non-compliant” and claiming that my behavioral problems are causing disturbances in the hospital. According to the officers, on the 10th of December 2020, I am “deserving the injuries I receive because of my rebelliousness in not conforming to wear a mask.” Even after I have explained, I cannot physically wear a mask.
When I put on any mask, including CPAP masks for sleep, KN95 COVID masks, shirts, or other cloth masks, and during surgery three times the surgical masks, my volume of air per breath drops to a point where I feel like I am choking. I begin gasping for air. A killer headache begins and lasts for up to 72-hours after. My vision grays, and I either drop to an unhealthy sleep or pass out using any mask. Shortness of breath has been getting worse since 2006. Shortness of breath was first noticeable after sustaining a significant spine injury in the US Navy in 2002. I went to medical, the corpsman on my ship increased my ibuprofen prescription, and said, “Since there is no pain, there is no spinal injury,” and marked me fit for full duty. My last two years onboard the ship are replete with falls, body weaknesses, gains of weight, loss of breath, increased pain levels, insomnia, and medical visits to the corpsman. All visits to the corpsman resulted in me being marked “Fit for Full Duty.” Fit for full duty meant carrying tools, parts, flammable gas containers, refrigerant, and Halon Firefighting Gases off the pier and onto the ship—wearing an SCBA regularly where my legs would collapse—handling HAZMAT, cleaning up HAZMAT, and much more. All of this is documented and factual.
1247 hours, the 30th of December 2020, a person declaring themselves the assistant deputy director of the VA Police at the Carl T. Hayden VA Medical Center in Phoenix, Arizona, called me. When asked three times, directly, “Why are you calling me,” I received three different ambiguous answers that meant nothing and a redirection of the conversation. Then the caller told me some “facts,” I stated the situation as declared above. To which I was told, “Your evidence is not applicable because it is too old.” Yet, he went on to claim his officer’s record of events was correct and factual, and the date did not matter.
But, like the Home Shopping Network claims, “Oh Wait, there’s more.” The caller told me, “your non-compliance is what is causing the issues.” Not the fact that zealot bureaucrats are enforcing a policy that endangers the patients. Not that my safety concerns have any bearing on the issues or why I keep getting harassed by multiple VA Federal Police Officers who refuse to listen to the patient. Not that I have legitimate physical problems with wearing a mask. He only informed me that I am not compliant, which is my problem, and the sole reason the VA Police Officers keep injuring me.
But “Oh wait, there’s more.” After declaring I am non-compliant, the caller refused to listen to my rebuttal of why I am compliant. Interrupting me constantly, and then claiming that I am “Riled up” and “not being professional” when conversing with him, an intransigent caller. The caller then dared to declare that “Patients do not tell the hospital what they will and will not do.” Seriously!?!?! I have personal safety and health issues that have been recorded on the VA Medical records, and this caller has now duplicated what his officers did on the 10th of December when they declared they were smarter than my doctor and could know when someone was faking an injury or not!
But “Oh, wait, there’s more.” In July 2020, I heard jokes and disparaging comments made about me and my medical file while sitting in the holding cell. On the 10th of December, more disparaging remarks were made that included details that can only be known had the VA Police looked at my medical diagnosis, mental health records, and other medical data. Having non-medical personnel know this confidential data is a HIPAA violation, clear and simple. The letter 644/00 dated the 13th of October 2020 from Dr. A. Smith, the Medical Center Director, claimed that the VA Police needed this data to do their jobs effectively. But, the caller had the nerve to declare, “I am making this up, these allegations have no bearing on the 08th of December event, and I need to stop lying about my injuries and the verbal abuse of the arresting officers.” Which is it, HIPAA claims that these officers are in direct violation of their duties when they know my private medical details and diagnosis. The VAMC director claims it is legal. The caller claimed they have never had this data. I smell CYA, and it stinks!
I have now sat in Holding Cell 1 twice and Holding Cell 2 once at the Carl T. Hayden VA Police Offices. I can tell you from my experience, the majority of these Federal Police Officers are unprofessional, full of verbal diarrhea, and replete with the most egregious manners it has ever been my displeasure to encounter. The Department of Motor Vehicles is more professional and dedicated than most of the Carl T. Hayden’s VA Police Officers – having this “leader” of VA Police Operations tell me I am lying is enough to boil my blood!
But “Oh, wait, there’s more.” The caller then had the audacity to accuse me of being hostile, not listening, and refusing to comply. How can I comply when you never told me why you were calling? At this point, I disconnected the call.
The call today lasted 8 minutes, and was full of bureaucratic nonsense, and left me out of breath, gasping for air, and madder than a soaked chicken with a raging case of hemorrhoids. Why did the Assistant Deputy Director of VA Police call me? What is his job? Since his job clearly does not include setting hospital policy at the VA, will this incident be referred to a policymaker at some future date, or do I have to be paralyzed? Because another zealous VA Police Officer jerks my spine and cuts my spinal cord. If patients cannot inform a police officer that what they are doing is causing injury, then the VA Police Officers need better tactics, approaches, and policies.
As a professional organizational psychologist, I place my integrity and honor on what I have reported, observed, experienced, witnessed, heard, and I fully and unequivocally attest that the majority of the Federal Police Officers in the Carl T. Hayden VA Police Force need immediate retraining; except for those fired for unprofessional behavior and misconduct! There is NO EXCUSE for Officer Interpreter on the 08th of December 2020 to have grabbed me, after physically pushing me, and try to spin me into a wall. There is no reason, at all, for a VA Police Lt. and a Sgt. to grab my wrists, bend my arms into positions they do not travel, aggravating the handcuff injuries from Monday, and then have the gall to tell me, “Well, how could I know you had painful wrists, you are not wearing a bandage.” I told them about my injures before they started grabbing, jerking, yanking, and hurting me. Then I get ordered to “Shut up; I was under arrest.” But I never had my Miranda Rights read. I complied on the 10th, I complied on the 8th, and was in compliance in July.
Let’s be perfectly clear; hospital mandatory mask policies must have exceptions for patients who physically cannot wear a mask. Patients unable to wear masks include some patients on cancer drugs, some asthmatic patients, people with breathing problems, and much more. The Carl T. Hayden VA Medical Center COVID Mask policy is the biggest problem I face when trying to obtain treatment after the COVID Pandemic Declaration from Feb. 2020. I am certainly not alone in having breathing issues with the COVID Masking Policies, and with the zealotry, which those policies are being enforced. The VA has established an organizational design that requires business to be conducted face-to-face. Hence, the VA is a Ghost Town; patients are canceling their appointments, FOIA’s are not being submitted, and so much more because of the masking policies that endanger patient health and place patients at risk of further injury!
I repeat, only for emphasis, the only medical offices, radiological departments, emergency rooms, and hospitals in the Phoenix, Arizona area where mask policies are causing problems is at the Carl T. Hayden Veterans Administration Medical Center, and this is 100% wrong! The Entire VA Leadership Team should be highly embarrassed and entirely held accountable!
© Copyright 2020 – M. Dave Salisbury
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