“That’s Crazy!!!” – More Chronicles from the VA Chapter 6

I-CareI promised a follow-up article after Chapter 5; it took me the better part of 48 hours to cool down sufficiently to write coherently to effect an update.  On 18 March 2002, I wrote about an appointment with my Primary Care Provider (PCP) being tardy, unprepared, and bureaucratese in supposedly holding a phone appointment with me.  01 April 2022, not an “April Fools Joke,” at 0731 hours, lasting 9 minutes, my PCP called me to get my approval to have me changed from her PACT team to another provider’s team.  Apparently, in the highly red taped world of PCPs at the El Paso VAHCS, there must be an hour-long handoff call when a provider initiates a change of PACT team.  I have my doubts and smell designed incompetence!

Let me pause here for a moment.  I generally need two hours to write an article after conducting research.  18 March 2002, it took a bit longer to draft that one due to the need to blow off steam with some choice words and choke down the urge to beat a few brick walls with my fists.  I am generally a very controlled person, and the fact that this PCP was so stunningly incompetent, rude, and HIPAA clueless, I admit I lost my cherub-like demeanor!  That the patient advocate was able to get my secure message, upload the comments into the electronic medical record, and contact the provider before the provider had even logged the patient notes, speaks volumes about the ineptitude of the PCP.  Worse, in the call on 01 April, the PCP was still on speakerphone, still disregarding HIPAA security, and quoted lines out of context from my message to the patient advocate.  Speaking volumes about the processes and procedures of the patient advocate’s office to investigate patient claims without breaching confidentiality.  Another topic for another day entirely!PACT_model

28 March 2022, I received the following from the patient advocates office, quoted completely:

We have received your secure message addressing your concerns.  I will be sending a Patient Advocate Tracking notification with your concerns to our Primacy Care Service for review.  They will be contacting you via telephone to discuss your concerns.”

I never heard anything from this mysterious “Primary Care Service” group/team.  01 April 2022 was the first response, and that was from the PCP.  Sourcing the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and the Office of Inspector General (VA-OIG), the PCP is the second most important member of the Patient-Aligned Care Teams (PACT) at the VA; the patient is the essential member and an actively engaged and knowledgeable patient is preferred.  I promise the VA-OIG has not even scratched the surface of the problems with recalcitrant, snowflake, and bureaucratic PCPs endangering patient health with the VA.  Not my first run-in with an inept PCP; I sincerely hope it is my last!PACT 3

In returning to the 01 April call, we find another interesting piece of data.  The PCP affirmed that abdominal pain could radiate from, say a hernia, to other parts of the abdomen, but this is for a specialist to diagnose, not a Family Practitioner.  Get that; the PCP is directly reversing all the published documentation by the VA and the VA-OIG by declaring that a specialist is the only person who can adequately decipher and detail why pain is occurring—putting all the PCPs in the VA Health Administration under the bus as merely button pushers and drug dealers.  Then the PCP has the temerity, nay the chutzpah, to suggest a trust deficiency existing between myself and the PCP.  Is it any wonder that people are detested, forlorn, melancholy, madder than a wet chicken with a raging case of hemorrhoids with the care they receive from VA healthcare providers?

Again, I repeat, only for emphasis, when any updates arrive on this issue, I will publish them in their entirety to allow the VA the opportunity to rebut, refute, or explain.  Like the ongoing saga with VISN 22, the Phoenix VAMC, and being arrested and injured three times by the VA Police, I am not holding my breath and awaiting a logical response.  If this were the only problem in the two weeks since the PCP shenanigans, the VA would be in pretty good shape.  Alas, we know, dear readers, that the VA is in dire condition, and the elected leaders need to be scrutinizing the VA a LOT more closely than they are.VA 3

We begin the latest chapter of VA-OIG reports with yet another physician bilking the government:

Robert Clay Smith, a Louisiana physician, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit healthcare fraud, wire fraud, and illegal remunerations (taking kickbacks).  According to court documents, the scheme, which ran from 2013 until 2017, involved individuals associated with a medical supply and billing company recruiting Smith to dispense pain creams and patches to his workers’ compensation patients by offering him a split of the profits.  The company acted as the billing agent for Smith, handling all the paperwork and submitting the allegedly fraudulent claims to the US Department of Labor, Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs, and private insurers.  In exchange, the company paid Smith 50 to 55 percent of the profits collected from successfully billing insurers, at markups of 15 to 20 times what the medications cost.”

Plus the following:

Robert Schneiderman of Langhorne, Pennsylvania, admitted to participating in a massive compounded-medication kickback scheme that he and others ran out of a pharmacy in Clifton, New Jersey.  Schneiderman pleaded guilty in federal court to one count of conspiracy to commit healthcare fraud and one count of conspiracy to violate the Anti-Kickback Statute.  From 2014 through 2016, Schneiderman and his coconspirators used Main Avenue Pharmacy, a mail-order pharmacy with a storefront in New Jersey, to run a fraud and kickback scheme involving compounded drugs like scar creams, pain creams, migraine mediation, and vitamins.  Schneiderman was the president of Main Avenue Pharmacy and was a founder and CEO of its corporate parent.  Main Avenue Pharmacy received over $34 million in reimbursements from healthcare benefit programs on compounded medications alone.  Approximately $8 million of that total was paid by federal payers.  Schneiderman himself earned over $400,000 through the course of the scheme.  This case was investigated by the VA OIG, FBI, Department of Defense OIG, Defense Criminal Investigative Service, and Department of Health and Human Services OIG.”

Don’t forget this one:

Dr. Harry Doyle, a psychiatrist from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and his wife, Sonya Doyle, have agreed to pay $3 million to resolve alleged violations of the False Claims Act.  The alleged violations include submitting false billing to the US Department of Labor Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs (OWCP) for psychiatric services that were not provided and upcoding and double-billing patient claims.  The Doyles have also agreed to be voluntarily excluded from federal healthcare programs for 25 years as part of the settlement.  This is the largest recovery against a single psychiatrist in the history of the OWCP.  A multiagency investigation of Dr. Doyle’s practice revealed that from January 2013 through April 2021, the Doyles allegedly billed for services not rendered, some of which occurred when they were not physically present in the United States.  This case was investigated by the VA OIG, the Department of Labor OIG, and the United States Postal Service OIG.”

More is coming on this one:

Ten Texas doctors and a healthcare executive have agreed to pay more than $1.68 million to resolve False Claims Act allegations involving illegal remuneration in violation of the Anti-Kickback Statute and Stark Law.  According to a multiagency investigation, from 2015 to 2018, the doctors allegedly received thousands of dollars in illegal remuneration from eight management service organizations (MSOs) in exchange for ordering laboratory tests from Rockdale Hospital doing business as Little River Healthcare, True Health Diagnostics LLC, and Boston Heart Diagnostics Corporation.  Little River funded the illegal remuneration to the doctors in the form of volume-based commissions paid to independent contractor recruiters, who used the MSOs to pay numerous doctors for their referrals.  The MSO payments to the doctors were disguised as investment returns but were based on and offered in exchange for the doctors’ referrals.  As part of their settlements, the defendants have agreed to cooperate with the Department of Justice’s investigations of other parties involved in the alleged law violations.  To date, 17 doctors and two healthcare executives involved in this scheme have agreed on settlements totaling more than $2.7 million.  The civil settlements resulted from a coordinated effort between the VA OIG, Department of Health and Human Services OIG, Defense Criminal Investigative Service, and the US Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Texas [emphasis mine].”

Elected officials, the next time you are asked about the incredible amounts of fraud in government-provided healthcare and insurance, do not buy the media talking points that the fraud is minimal, contained, or anything but designed incompetence on the part of the bureaucrats to act as a jobs program for investigators!  The same investigators who are refused sufficient tools to investigate shenanigans by employees in the Federal Government adequately.?u=http2.bp.blogspot.com-fGEUjJsJ2h4VcJgswaisnIAAAAAAAABcsoFqEewPF_E4s1600quote-if-the-freedom-of-speech-is-taken-away-then-dumb-and-silent-we-may-be-led-like-sheep-to-the-george-washington-193690.jpg&f=1&nofb=1

Frankly, all of these cases need the government workers to be held accountable, and the myriad of red tape loopholes CLOSED!  I remember an election; I forget who and the exact when, but a significant election plank in the platform was healthcare reform, promising to clean up the swamp and bring accountability to Washington and the government.  The public is still waiting, and I know enough of you have run on this topic from both parties to repaper the walls (inside and outside) of the White House.

Yet, even if only outside providers and executives were scheming, the VA might not be in too bad a condition.  Except for the employees of the VA, VHA, and VBA, which continue to be caught up in ethics violations at a minimum:

The VA-OIG conducted an administrative investigation that included a congressional request to look into allegations that Charmain Bogue, former executive director of the Veterans Benefits Administration’s Education Service, committed ethical violations arising from her spouse’s consulting work for Veterans Education Success (VES).  VES is a nonprofit advocacy group that regularly had business before the Education Service.  The allegations also pointed to possible incomplete financial disclosures by Ms. Bogue concerning her spouse’s consulting business.  In their work, investigators uncovered evidence of other potential conflicts of interest and related misconduct by Ms. Bogue [emphasis mine].”

VA-OIG finding:

    1. Bogue participated in Education Service matters involving VES without considering whether it raised an apparent conflict of interest and acted contrary to the ethics guidance she received from her supervisors.
    2. Bogue sought résumé feedback from the president of VES to aid in her search for career advancement without considering whether this raised apparent conflict of interest concerns in subsequent VES matters. VES also endorsed Ms. Bogue for presidential nominee positions.
    3. Bogue provided insufficient detail about her spouse’s business in 2019 and 2020 public financial disclosures; VA ethics attorneys had found them compliant. She remedied the subsequently identified deficiency in her 2021 disclosure.
    4. The OIG found that Ms. Bogue refused to cooperate fully in the OIG’s investigation by refusing to complete her follow-up interview. Her husband and VES president also refused to participate in OIG interviews, and the OIG lacks testimonial subpoena authority over individuals who are not VA employees.   Bogue resigned from VA in January 2022.VA 3

UPDATE: 14 April 2022Sen. Grassley was hoodwinked by the VA on this issue and The Daily Signal (linked) has more of this report.  I covered this before, I repeat only for emphasis, when you are discharged from the VA, you lose your ability to be a “whistle-blower.”  As a point of fact, this is how the VA is able to hide a lot of their shenanigans, get rid of the person rocking the boat, invent the paperwork, cover the whole incident over as a “bad-apple” and keep you collective heads down and mouths shut until the VA-OIG investigation concludes.  The VA’s ability to abuse whistle-blowers is further compounded by Federal Attorneys who cherry-pick the cases they know they can win.  Which further protects the VA’s shenanigans and disheartens and mystifies those who have been wrongly terminated.  The Daily Signal reflects this pattern of corruption perfectly citing the records obtained by Empower Oversight.

Some commentators have claimed that blaming elected officials for not scrutinizing or not providing tools to investigate entirely is unduly unfair to the congressional representatives.  Really?!?!?!  The VA-OIG conducts an investigation, the people being investigated refuse to comply, and the VA-OIG is toothless to enforce a full and complete investigation to initiate Attorney General and FBI investigations and actions to recompense the defrauded taxpayer.  Ms. Bogue and the VES have invalidated any trust the taxpayer should have in their respective activities, but this, like so many other investigations into VA employees, will die of apathy before anyone is held accountable.  Even though a congressional representative demanded an investigation, nobody is being held liable.  Nobody is forced to compensate the defrauded taxpayer, yet the taxpayer is still expected to elect the same old representatives to their jobs.  Blaming the congressional representatives (legislative branch) for not scrutinizing the executive branch, one of only two jobs these people have, is somehow unfair?  NO!Exclamation Mark

Remarkably, between the 18 March disaster with the PCP and 01 April’s compounding idiocy, the VA-OIG published an ironically titled investigation report.

Improved Governance Would Help Patient Advocates Better Manage Veterans’ Healthcare Complaints.”

Imagine that, more designed incompetence negatively impacting the veterans seeking care at a VA medical facility, stating the obvious by the investigators.  Who on earth would be responsible for seeing that regulatory agencies had the tools needed to scrutinize and demand corrective action?  Calling all elected officials, did you notice that one of the prima facia tools a veteran has to report problems, conveniently called “patient advocates,” does not have the sufficient authority, adequate oversight, and tools to execute their jobs?  The VA-OIG reports the following:

The Patient Advocacy Program helps advance the Veterans Health Administration’s (VHA) efforts to improve customer service, support veterans’ access to quality care, and provide a mechanism to resolve healthcare issues.  Patient advocates document veterans’ concerns, communicate the resolution, provide follow-up and feedback, and identify trends for potential opportunities to improve medical facilities.  In FY 2020, VHA tracked about 162,000 serious complaints in its patient advocate tracking systems.”

Angry Wet ChickenOn a side topic, VA-OIG, how do you define a “significant complaint” and separate it from other types of complaints?  Honest question, the information was, to quote my PCP, “remarkably” missing from your investigation report!  Would the VA-OIG like to know why so many veterans’ complaints have risen to a “serious” level?  You reported the exact problem:

A complaint is considered resolved when the complainant communicates the outcome, and the record is closed in the tracking system.”

Maybe, the VA-OIG merely overlooked the logic problem, but complaints increase when the solution pushed down the throats of the veterans does not fix the actual situation.  Honest question, no sarcasm involved.  Is a “serious” complaint one where significant harm or death to the patient has occurred?  Is a serious complaint one that breaks federal laws, EMTALA, comes readily to mind??u=https3.bp.blogspot.com-fYRTNk48SCwT8ua0IRDWPIAAAAAAAAFZUpexSmJsN2Kos1600overcoming-adversity-help-yourself-believe-cubby-motivational-1289878102.jpg&f=1&nofb=1

Having had “solutions” forced down my throat, speaking only for myself, I am thoroughly sick of having the patient advocates bureaucratize my complaint, then fail to act, and then compound the problem by quoting policy to me as a reason to close the complaint, when the VHA never have written policies and procedures!  Maybe, you might want to look into the root causes of some of those “closed” complaints and ask root causation questions!

What did the VA-OIG find when they investigated the patient advocates?

    • VHA lacked adequate governance of the Patient Advocacy Program.
    • VHA did not effectively issue and implement adequate policy, monitor complaint practices, and provide guidance to medical facility directors responsible for local program management.
    • Patient advocates did not always enter complaints into the system.
    • Even though complaint records generally appeared to be closed on time, patient advocates did not always document the communication of the outcomes to the complainants.
    • The VA-OIG substantiated an inadequate program policy to identify clear expectations and responsibilities.
    • The VA-OIG found that they (patient advocates) did not always adhere to the documentation requirements to show full complaint resolution.
    • At the local and VISN levels, responsible personnel did not consistently analyze patient advocate tracking system complaints about trends.

Feel free to read the complete abomination of designed incompetence for yourself.  Essentially the VA-OIG concluded that the VHA has been burning taxpayer money in a patient advocacy program, and the designed incompetence is so apparent it can be tracked from L2, where the James Webb telescope is located!  Worse, you won’t need the James Webb telescope to see the designed incompetence!James Webb Space Telescope

Unfortunately, I could have guessed the first three findings without looking.  Every VA program is designed so ineptly, reprehensibly led, criminally incompetent, and with such dastardly deceptive doings that fiction writers’ storylines have to be written better to sell books.  You cannot make this stupidity up and make a profit.  Hollywood would run screaming into the night if they made a true story about the ineptitude found at the VA!

Knowledge Check!Elected officials, where are you?  The VA-OIG presents copies of their findings to you, and I have yet to witness a single one of you holding the VA Leadership criminally responsible for the failures at the VA.  Even when the VA is killing hundreds of veterans, the US Congress refuses even to act upset, let alone scrutinize for a change!  Remember how many veterans were intentionally killed in Phoenix waiting for treatment?  How many VA employees lost their jobs and pensions or were forced in front of a judge for murder?  It is a fair question, where are the elected officials in the legislative branch working to end the criminal “fraud, waste, abuse,” and designed incompetence in the executive branch?

© Copyright 2022 – M. Dave Salisbury
The author holds no claims for the art used herein, the pictures were obtained in the public domain, and the intellectual property belongs to those who created the images.  Quoted materials remain the property of the original author.

Fed UP! – More Detestable Bureaucratism from the VA.

I-CareI hate being lied to!  More than I hate being lied to, I detest, with every fiber in my being bureaucrats and the inanity they promulgate to excuse their stupidity and throw a wrench into the works.  Today I suffered through yet another call with my VA-appointed primary care provider (PCP).  Not an online conference, but a phone call.  Who was in the office with the provider and why?  How can I guarantee my HIPAA information during a phone call on an unsecured line?  How do I know who I am talking to?  These concerns and more arise when you receive a phone call to discuss important medical information, and my PCP does not care!  My PCP refuses to use the VA’s tools to conduct patient appointments and instead creates workarounds; what an ingenious method for telling lies and spreading falsehoods as bureaucratic inertia; I’m so thrilled!

The PCP continuously claimed all my imaging is “normal” and “unremarkable.”  The pain experienced cannot be related, and the sources are questionable.  In polite speak, the PCP is trying to tell me it’s all in my head; a previous provider from the VA already used this as an excuse for not performing their job.  For more than 10-years, I have been fighting the VAHCS for help in reducing pain and in getting to root causes for the problems experienced.  Yet, today’s call was just more of the same BS wrapped in feel-good words, platitudes, and bureaucratic non-answers.  Honestly, after the third time the doctor related, the imaging was normal and unremarkable; I lost my cherub-like demeanor!  I did not swear until I got off the phone, but I am not anywhere close to a happy patient.

Honest question, does the VAHCS troll medical school for the bottom of the barrel, those people who can barely pass a class, let alone qualify for medical privileges?  I need competence, and I get useless lumps.  I ask questions, and the snowflakes pop out of the woodwork like ticks on a deer or fleas on a dog.  I am thoroughly sick of being treated like a know-nothing inconvenience.  The most important person in the VA marketed PACT Team is the patient who will be active, engaged, and informed.  The second most important member of the VA Marketed PACT team is the Primary Care Provider.VA 3

Since 2002 I have had a problem in my gastro-intestinal system; since 2010, the pain has been debilitating, and four years ago, I was diagnosed with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.  Today, 22 March 2022, the PCP reviewed the problems area on my electronic health record (EHR), which coincidentally resides at the top of the electronic health record and was mentioned four different times by myself, and noted that non-alcoholic fatty liver disease is not listed.  Tell me, how would that make you feel?  The PCP ordered today’s call before the recent imaging appointment on my abdomen and pelvis, but the provider, who called me almost 30-minutes late, did not even look up my record before calling.  Had not studied the imaging results and formulated a plan of action to move forward, yet as the second most important member of the PACT team, I am supposed to trust this bureaucrat; I think NOT!

Through the miracle of modern technology, I had read and researched the imaging results more than 24 hours before the scheduled appointment to discuss the results.  I came prepared, but the provider could not be bothered to prepare for a call they demanded, then had the sheer effrontery to keep repeating that the imaging is “normal” and “unremarkable.”  Then the provider has the gall to tell me, repeatedly, that I was yelling, when in fact, she only did not like being spoken to with emphasis and insistence that she do her job!  Yes, I called her a bureaucrat and a snowflake, whereupon she threatened to hang up the call, but I disconnected first.  I miss those old rotary phones you leased from AT&T, they had heft, and when slammed, they made you feel better about disconnecting a call.PACT_model

From research, it is abundantly clear that pain from hernias can show up or be felt in areas far removed from the hernia site.  Constipation is both an indicator and a symptom of hernias.  Muscle weakness in the legs, burning sensations, and much more are all indicators of a hernia.  Yet, when I asked about all the other pains and problems experienced in my abdomen, I was told the hernia could not be the root cause, and the imaging is “normal and unremarkable,” but the PCP could not answer why these other symptoms are unrelated when asked.  Where is the research, seeing as “Dr. Google,” is discouraged; Johns Hopkins and the Mayo Clinic, plus I have access to the medical libraries at the University of Phoenix and Grand Canyon University.  With less than five minutes of research, I can locate and read data from reputable sources to form the basis of questions to ask a PCP, which is encouraged of patients by the VA.  Yet, the doctor cannot be trusted to provide any intelligent data, do any preparation, or knowledgeably speak to a symptom list; when will the VA answer why their PCP cannot do their job?PACT 1

If only I were the only person experiencing these problems and issues with the VA.

Former VA cardiologist John Giacomini of Atherton, California, pleaded guilty to one count of felony abusive sexual contact.  In the fall of 2017, Giacomini repeatedly subjected a subordinate electrophysiologist to unwanted and unwelcome sexual contact, including hugging, kissing, and intimate touching while on VA premises.  On 10 November 2017, the victim explicitly told Giacomini she was not interested in a romantic or sexual relationship with him.  Nevertheless, Giacomini continued to subject his subordinate to unwanted sexual advances and touching, culminating on 20 December 2017, when Giacomini turned out the lights in an office, pulled the victim out of her chair, and fondled her until a janitor opened the office door and interrupted the encounter.  The victim later resigned from her position at the VA, citing Giacomini’s behavior as her principal reason for leaving.  Sentencing is scheduled for 12 July 2022.VA 3

Will the VA-OIG troll through this former provider’s employment history seek out the other victims, or will this be swept under the rug not to tarnish the VA?  Having been an employee of the VA, will anyone, EVER, look at how employment law is abused by the leaders in the VA and correct the problems?  This incident should never have occurred, nor should it have taken years of abuse to end this despicable behavior.  Yet, what does the VA do, shut both eyes and pretend it does not occur in consequence of the designed culture at the VA.

Why did the victim have to tell another adult that their behavior was unwanted, and quit their job, before the VA took action?  Will there be an inquiry from congress?  Will any lawyers stand up and demand the VA correct this detestable hole that allows this behavior to promulgate?  I am not holding my breath!

Speaking of electronic medical health records, the VA-OIG has issued three separate reports on this topic, and none of them paint the VA with anything that shows competence.  In the report titled:

Medication Management Deficiencies after the New Electronic Health Record Go-Live at the Mann-Grandstaff VAMC in Spokane, Washington.”  The following findings were related:

Deficiencies in medication data migration and management resulted in patients having inaccurate or incomplete medications in their records or made filling prescriptions accurately more difficult—all of which can affect patient care and safety.  Areas of concern included:

(1) Data migration
(2) Medication formulary availability
(3) Medication order processing
(4) Provider notification and alerts
(5) Controlled substance tracking
(6) Prescription drug monitoring program documentation
(7) Medication reconciliation
(8) Medication list accuracy.”VA 3

As previously stated, I am not as nice and never politically correct.  VA-OIG, please allow me to correct your assertion, “Deficiencies in medication data migration and management resulted in patients having inaccurate or incomplete medications in their records or made filling prescriptions accurately more difficultall of which DO negatively affect patient care and safety.”  Trust is the first casualty in war and in dealing with the VA in ANY form, manner, or method.  When you cannot trust your data to remain confidential, the entire electronic medical record system can only be rated as UNACCEPTABLE!  The upgrading of the electronic medical records system at the VA is a 10-year, multi-billion-dollar fiasco, and as a taxpayer, I am done paying for this system!

Not to be outdone by the medication side of veteran care experiencing failures, the following VA-OIG report was issued:

Care Coordination Deficiencies after the New Electronic Health Record Go-Live at the Mann-Grandstaff VA Medical Center in Spokane, Washington.”

The EHR rollout caused problems in coordinating veterans’ care, ranging from the flags for patients at high risk for suicide not transferring to veterans and their care providers having trouble accessing video appointments and patient portal messaging.  Tracking outcomes were sometimes lost, and disappearing laboratory orders also resulted.  Although the OIG did not identify associated patient deaths, future deployment of the new EHR without resolving identified deficiencies could increase risks to patient safety.”VA 3

Again, the VA-OIG is practicing political correctness instead of being specific, and upfront, the entire EHR is a disaster, the cost is prohibitive, and any fool should see it is time to pull the plug, cut the losses, and hold the leadership accountable!  Yet, what do we see; the EHR is progressing into infinity and beyond at a snail’s pace!

The final nail in the VA’s EHR coffin should be that nobody involved can communicate with the IT helpdesk for the EHR as the IT ticketing system is unreliable!  Form the VA-OIG, we find the following:

Ticket Process Concerns and Underlying Factors after the New Electronic Health Record Go-Live at the Mann-Grandstaff VA Medical Center in Spokane, Washington.”

The failure to process and respond to VHA staff ticketing requests for help or report concerns resulted in reporting, tracking, and resolving problems.  These deficiencies made it difficult for clinicians and administrative staff to serve patients and impeded EHR fixes that can affect future sites.  The inspection team also identified five factors contributing to the deficiencies identified in the two companion reports above: usability, training, interoperability, needed fixes, and problem resolution.”VA 3

Imagine for a moment, you are responsible for a multi-billion-dollar IT project, and one of the first issues discovered by the users is the inability to reach out for IT help; how long would you remain employed?  Would you ever expect to ever work again if any of these problems were your legacy for leading the IT improvement on a multi-billion-dollar project?  As a consultant, I know how fast you would be fired and taken to court for business losses.  Why are these leaders exempt?  Where are the blue-ribbon panels and committees demanding people be held accountable for this fiasco?EHR-VA-OIG

When the VA-OIG casually mentions that PCPs are untrustworthy and not using the current tools correctly, should the providers be issued new tools; NO!  Yet, this is the opposite of what common sense declares.  Are you, dear reader, as a taxpayer, fed UP yet?  My wife reminds me, “These problems happen in civilian hospitals.”  No, in fact, they do not.  If data migrated from one patient’s EHR to another patient’s HER, that hospital would be sued and shut down so fast by congress at the federal and state level, all before the media firestorm would have barely begun.  If a patient were jeopardized because their provider could not track medications, that patient would sue for malpractice and possibly a class-action lawsuit.  If an IT project was occurring in the civilian world, and the users could not contact the IT helpdesk, the project would be overhauled so fast, and people fired, new records would have been set.

Knowledge Check!It is time we end this charade and money pit call the Department of Veterans Affairs, and every other agency of the Federal government bloat!  The government should be leading, not lagging, where operational efficiency and fiscal sanity are concerned.  I repeat, only for emphasis, are you fed UP yet?

© Copyright 2022 – M. Dave Salisbury
The author holds no claims for the art used herein, the pictures were obtained in the public domain, and the intellectual property belongs to those who created the images.  Quoted materials remain the property of the original author.

“That’s Crazy!!!” – More Chronicles from the VA Chapter 4

Last week, my primary care provider informed me that the VA is no longer responsible for providing my prescriptions as an outside provider that the VA Community Services team sent me to has increased my dosage.  My primary care provider pulled a Pontius Pilot and washed her hands, and I am swinging in the wind with more bureaucracy and less service.  The best part of the news delivered this last week, the fallacious, seditious, and felonious attack on my character, the behavior problem flag, is controlled by the primary care provider.  Boy, I am sick of the bureaucracy of the VA; if only this were the worst of the bureaucratic baloney, the VA is pushing out.

From many VA-OIG reports during COVID, the following, or something close, was a regular statement:

During COVID-19, VHA’s Office of Community Care (OCC) took steps to ensure veterans continued to have expanded access to health care in the community, as required by the VA MISSION Act of 2018.  OCC issued policies to VA facilities to postpone non-urgent appointments and offer alternatives to in-person care, such as telehealth.”

The VA-OIG inspected to see how closely this statement was adhered to during the height of the COVID pandemic.  What surprises no one is how badly the VA managed community care during the pandemic.

Findings:

    • The VA-OIG found that routine community care consults were unscheduled, averaging 42 days, not meeting VHA’s timeliness goal of 30 days.
    • Community care staff faced significant challenges beyond their control that contributed to the scheduling delays, such as the lack of availability of appointments in the community.
    • Some patients were hesitant to schedule appointments during the pandemic, failed to return phone calls, or declined care once it was offered. – While some of this is definitely patient-driven, what is not discussed is the abrupt shift, the lack of trust, and the confusion about the need to pay the community providers, among other things, faced by veterans forced into community care. As a reference point, it has been 24-months, and I am still facing requests to pay several community providers due to the VA not paying the bill due to a technicality.  The VA claims the provider has to “eat the costs,” but I keep getting statements and calls from collection agencies.  Guess the direction of my credit score, the direction of my insurance costs, and how happy I am with community care providers.
    • The VA-OIG found community care providers and staff did not consistently comply with requirements to manage routine consults, and leaders lacked tools to sufficiently monitor program operations that could have identified the problems.
    • Deficiencies emerged in documenting when patients were contacted about scheduling appointments, designating patients eligible for alternative care, and ensuring staff was trained in ways that would address those weaknesses. – Not to mention that pertinent medical records still haven’t been transmitted, received, and alerted the primary care provider. I had gallbladder removal surgery; no records ever made it to the VA.  I have MRIs, CT scans, and ER notes that, even after being hand-delivered, have not been added to my VA electronic health record and presented to the primary care provider to discuss, dating back to 2010.

How’s that community service program working for you?  In any other industry, this performance would represent an abysmal failure; but community care represents a healthy opportunity for improvement at the VA.  The findings listed are a mere drop in the conclusions discussed in the report.  I have a suggestion for the VA, stop overpromising and underdelivering.  How about you under-promise and then over-deliver?

The following VA-OIG inspection report focused on the Veteran Health Administration facility’s adherence to guidelines for medication management, and the following explanation is quoted from the report:

This report describes medication management findings from healthcare inspections initiated at 36 VHA medical facilities from November 4, 2019, through September 21, 2020.  Each inspection involved interviews with facility leaders and staff and clinical and administrative processes reviews.  The results in this report are a snapshot of VHA performance at the time of the fiscal year 2020 OIG reviews.”

Before we get into the findings, let me elaborate on that statement.  The VA-OIG cherry-picked/hand-selected call it what you will, the facilities to inspect.  No criteria discuss how these facilities were selected.  More, the processes chosen for review were also cherry-picked/hand-selected.  Appearing to represent that, the VA-OIG stacked the deck to obtain success, and the VHA still failed, or rather showed weaknesses.

Generally, the VA-OIG rated the VHA facilities as “compliant.”  But “weaknesses” were identified; read that as the VHA cannot follow established guidelines, protocols, and processes, even though they wrote and established these guidelines and medication protocols.  I call this designed incompetence of a criminal nature, but I am not half as lenient and politically astute as the VA-OIG!

Findings:

    • Aberrant behavior risk assessments
    • Concurrent benzodiazepine therapy
    • Urine drug testing
    • Informed consent
    • Patient follow-up
    • Quality measure oversight.

The following, also from the medication’s adherence inspection, remains significant:

“The OIG examined the following indicators of program
oversight and evaluation:

      • Performance of pain management committee activities
      • Monitoring of quality measures
      • Following the quality improvement process”

For the weaknesses represented in the findings to be prevalent, the “Pain Management Committee activities” represent a general failure of the committee to function!  For quality processes to be a finding, monitoring quality signifies that the bureaucrats are NOT doing the jobs they were hired to perform!  A quality process fails when the humans tasked with oversight refuse to engage, and the VA-OIG findings testify to the truth of humans actively refusing to do their jobs individually and collectively!

Having read and written about the VA-OIG reports for almost ten years, I swear sentences containing the following represent a majority stake in why the VA-OIG cannot be trusted.

VA-OIG inspections… underscored the value of independent oversight of care received in these settings to help VA make continuous improvements.”

Really?  Are you sure the VA-OIG inspections provide “independent oversight” and spur “continuous improvement” at the inspected VA facilities?  I have significant doubts the inspections do anything more than highlight the problems as the VA-OIG inspectors have no teeth, and lying has zero repercussions for the humans defrauding the taxpayer!  How do I know this; the VA-OIG reports generally go on to make a claim similar to the following:

The OIG’s findings show that immediate attention is needed in several critical areas….”

Do you, the dear reader, understand better the frustration of veterans and their families?  When the Office of Inspector General (OIG) for the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) covering the National Cemeteries, Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA), and Veterans Health Administration (VHA), can be deluded, distracted, and duped by conniving and conspiring people, what else can the veterans and their families do BUT become frustrated?  This is behavior unacceptable in every industry.  In fact, legislation overseeing non-government healthcare is strict in outlawing the conduct observed in government-provided healthcare, but somehow the VA is exempt.  Yet, the VA continues to make claims such as the following:

This is how the VA is delivering on its promise to care for the veteran who has borne the battle, his widow, and his children.”

But don’t take my word for it; the VA-OIG conducted several more Comprehensive Healthcare Inspections (CHIPs), resembling cookie-cutter inspections.  Staff training continues to be a major delinquency labeled as “High-Risk.”  Behavior Committee continues to be a central sticking point and inspection problem.  Cleanliness, tagged under “Quality, Safety, and Value,” continues to represent an area for growth and development.  Nurse-to-Nurse communications remain constant as a problem, and electronic medical records are not helping to improve on this problem.  Inter-facility transferring of patients, policy, and documentation also resemble a constant issue.  I feel like I could summarize a CHIPs report with my eyes closed; tell me, when does the “independent oversight” spur “continuous improvement?”

On the topic of “independent oversight” spurring “continuous improvement,” the VA-OIG conducted a VHA inspection of mental health activities for FY 2020.  Declaring:

This report describes mental health-related findings from healthcare inspections initiated at 36 Veterans Health Administration medical facilities from November 4, 2019, through September 21, 2020, and electronic health record review at five additional facilities.  Each inspection involved interviews with facility leaders and staff and clinical and administrative processes.”

Again, how the facilities were selected and the items reviewed appears to have stacked the deck in the VHA’s favor.  The VHA is still failing, showing weakness while generally being compliant.

Findings:

    • Completion of four follow-up visits within the required time frame
    • Appropriate follow-up of veterans with high-risk patient record flags who do not attend mental health appointments
    • Suicide prevention training
    • Completion of five monthly outreach activities.

Under these four categories, recommendations for improvement included:

    • Registered Nurse Credentialling – Source verification of licenses.
    • Staff training on Suicide Prevention
    • Care Coordination – Especially in transferring the patient, form completion, and evaluating transferred patients
    • Medication list transmission during transfers
    • Staff Training
    • Patient notification
    • Attending the Disruptive Behavior Committee

For anyone else keeping record, most of the list above is a repeat from the last several years the mental health inspection has occurred.  Color me shocked that the VA would still have issues remaining year-over-year, and if you cannot hear the sarcasm in that statement, I have some suggestions for you!

I am thoroughly sick to death of the VA failing in its mission, then bragging they are providing “Excellence in Healthcare.”  If the staff is not trained, they cannot perform their jobs, representing a leadership failure.  This is a truth for all industries, occupations, businesses, organizations, etc.  Nobody is exempt from this statement of fact, yet the VA-OIG keeps on swallowing this excuse year-over-year, and NO PROGRESS is EVER made!

America, are you aware of what the various government agencies are doing with your money, on your time, and with your consent?  If your neighbor took your checkbook and wrote checks you are legally responsible for paying, would you want better services rendered?  Elected officials (yes, I am including those at the city, county, state levels of government), why are you NOT scrutinizing the government more effectively and rigorously?  You, the elected officials, are the neighbor writing checks; why are YOU NOT doing the job we hired you to perform?

Elected officials, did you know that VA is not required to maintain records of returned bills, as a matter of policy, but those returned bills mailed to veterans are causing hardship for veterans.  I cannot recount how many times I have changed my address and my spouse’s address with the VA, on the VA-approved websites, and in-person with VA representatives, and still have had mail not delivered for months due to a wrong address in a legacy system.  Yet, the VA is not policy mandated to check returned mail, track that mail to a veteran, and check the different legacy and non-legacy systems for address veracity.

Elected officials, do you read the VA-OIG reports?  Honest question, as the following is directly from a VA-OIG report.

“[VHA primary care] providers did not consistently

        • Identify a surrogate should the patient lose decision-making capacity
        • Address previous advance directives, state-authorized portable orders, and/or life-sustaining treatment plans
        • Address the patient or surrogate’s understanding of the patient’s condition.”

The VA designed the PACT Team to improve care and deliver on the VA’s mission, yet the primary care provider has the following failures weaknesses showing.  The VA-OIG can do nothing to improve this glaring oversight, but you were elected to force change and spur “continuous improvement” in the executive branch officers and employees.  Well, where are you?  The VA-OIG substantiated that a failure in the PACT team led to a delay in a cancer diagnosis, causing increased pain, problems, and resource loss for a veteran; where are the elected officials, and the media for that matter, in raising a holy rhubarb on the PACT Team failing this veteran?

Elected officials, did you catch that statement in the VA-OIG report on the cancer diagnosis?

Facility leaders have an unwritten expectation that primary care providers conduct a thorough historical review of the patient’s electronic health record starting with the most recent annual note; however, the OIG found that not all of the patient’s providers conducted historical reviews, but instead focused on current issues and problems identified by the patient.”

Having transferred between PACT teams inside the VHA and state-to-state, I can affirm this is exactly what is transpiring in the PACT team; the second most important player, behind the patient, is the primary care provider.  When the primary care doctor fails in their job, like dominoes falling, the care of the patients rapidly cascades into a dynamic failure of healthcare in a VHA facility.  What are YOU doing to stop this madness and demand accountability?

The electronic health record has a section near the top of the record for “Problem List.”  Guess what; when providers fail to keep this section updated, current, and accurate, the healthcare of the patient borders on malpractice requiring only a slight push to arrive with a dead veteran.  The VA-OIG found providers and nursing staff failures to update the problems list accurately, keep the problems list current, and regularly discuss the problems list with the most critical member of the PACT team, the patient!  Providers failed to comply with sound science, good business practices, and act appropriately for the patient’s health; do you think this might be a slight problem in the PACT team?

I have offered the VA several suggestions for plotting a path forward.  Yet, the VA cannot and will not take advice without stern and reproachful measures taken by Congress.  Elected officials, it is time for you to act and groundswell the changes needed in every government agency, even if it means reducing the size of government!

© Copyright 2022 – M. Dave Salisbury
The author holds no claims for the art used herein, the pictures were obtained in the public domain, and the intellectual property belongs to those who created the images.  Quoted materials remain the property of the original author.

NO MORE BS: Putting Shame in the Right Place at the VA – Administration

Angry Grizzly BearI have found great and good providers at the VA, as well as some truly awful and detestable providers.  The Doctors, Nurses, Medical Support Assistant (MSA), and the patient are supposed to form a PACT team to improve the health and welfare of the patient in the VA Health Care System (VAHCS).  The PACT Team is a VA organizational program to assist in improving care and stands for Patient Aligned Care Team (PACT), as an extension of patient care services.  The PACT Team also includes the Patient Advocate and several others, as detailed in the image below.PACT_model

I mention all this because I have heard from a veteran, we are going to call him “Boats,” a chief Boatswain mate for over 20-years in the US Navy, honorably discharged, and a disabled veteran of the Vietnam Era.  Boats’ doctor changed clinics, thus shaking the PACT team to its core.  Since the doctor was reassigned to a different clinic, the nurse has been changed but not explicitly assigned, so the coverage nurse cannot be reached by phone, and secure message falls on deaf ears and plastic lips.  Hence, reaching his PACT team has become a burden, his health has suffered greatly, and the mask mandate makes his safety in the VA Clinic doubtful at best, as the mask aggravates his ability to breathe.

PACT 1Because his clinic has no doctor, other doctors have been sharing their time in the clinic.  This means that if treatment requires time and interactions over multiple visits, the patient loses any type of continuing care and is left frustrated, with continuity of care hindered.  Here’s the rub, this has been an ongoing situation for a long time, and the continuity of care has become a root cause in the failing health of this veteran.  Unfortunately, this is not a new or rare problem for the VA, and as shortages in providers continue to increase, it will only worsen.

PACT 3Boats is in the same situation as many other veterans.  While misery loves company, this type of misery costs lives, and that is an administrative problem Congress legally bound the VA to fix, and they refuse to address.  Like the mask policy that does not include a face shield option or include the verbiage for approved medical conditions, the administration of the VA continues to market lofty and grand standards and fails even to meet minimum legal requirements.  I have witnessed the administrative officers, known by their online pictures, refuse to help veterans, pawn off veterans, and even go so far as to hide from veterans to avoid providing customer service.

The hospital administrators have been schooled in the VA; many have “come up through the ranks.”  These administrators have been taught how to avoid accountability, responsibility, and work the VA Bureaucracy to keep their jobs, even when veterans are dying from the administrative problems they created.  While an employee, I heard the tales of how my Hospital Administration Services Director got her job; draw your own conclusions, all I do know is someone was promoted to an exceedingly great height above her maximum level of incompetence!

Detective 4Consider the hospital director moved, at taxpayer expense, from Seattle to Phoenix.  She had been killing veterans in Seattle and took over an award-winning hospital, which very shortly became a national joke for where veterans go to die!  Her lessons are still being taught, veterans are still dying, and the administration is still the problem!  The mask mandate that has stopped my prescription from being refilled, my abusive PACT Team led by a doctor who invited me to find a new provider, refused to contact me for two months about needed blood work to refill diabetes medication.  After two weeks without diabetes medication, magically, diabetes medication arrives. No blood work ever occurred because I cannot access the VA due to my approved medical condition that makes wearing a mask impossible.

The administration of VA Hospitals is a crime!  I had an assistant director, while an employee, who said, “If a non-VA Hospital did anything like the VA does things, they would be shut down for malpractice.”  The assistant director is now a clinic director for the VA; her resume included 20-years in non-VA hospital administration.  She joined the VA to help veterans.  Where is the VA-Office of Inspector General in rooting out these administrative landmines of ineptitude that makes hiring more difficult and retaining talent near impossible?  Where is Congress in scrutinizing the VA and helping those working to change the VA to succeed instead of actively contending with them?

LinkedIn VA ImageBoats has serious problems.  The legacy of the VA is to kill him instead of fixing their administrative problems.  But, the VA’s mission statement is still, “To fulfill President Lincoln’s promise: “To care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan” by serving and honoring the men and women who are America’s Veterans.
“Our department remains fully committed to fulfilling the sacred obligation that we have to those who serve in uniform.” ~VA Secretary Denis McDonough.

VA SealWhere is the VA acting in accordance with the mission statement and fulfilling its “sacred obligation?”  The answer, with the current leadership in administration, nowhere!  The VA has been purposefully designed to kill veterans and can be fixed.  The fix must include Congress, and we all know how Speaker Pelosi (D) feels about veterans; when she called them terrorists, it was clear her scrutinizing the government where the VA is concerned will not happen.

I-CareVA Secretary Denis McDonough signed onto the “I-Care” principles as core values in care for veterans in the VAHCS.  Well, when can we, the veterans, see that these core principles have been on-boarded and are correcting behavior?

“VA Core Values describe how VA will accomplish its mission and inform every interaction with our customers. These Core Values are: Integrity, Commitment, Advocacy, Respect, and Excellence — better known as “I CARE.” VA’s Core Values will continue to serve as the right guide for all our interactions and remind us and others that “I CARE.”

  • I care about those who have served.
  • I care about my fellow VA employees.
  • I care about choosing “the harder right instead of, the easier wrong.”
  • I care about performing my duties to the very best of my abilities.

DutyMr. Secretary…  The veterans are dying now!  We are waiting!

Like my enlistment oath, I signed onto the I-Care principles and even though I am no longer employed by the VA, I live I-Care!  Where is the VA in proving “I-Care?”

© 2021 M. Dave Salisbury
All Rights Reserved
The images used herein were obtained in the public domain; this author holds no copyright to the images displayed.

Appeal Letter – DBC Decision

Please note, this letter is both an appeal and a summary of everything that has happened at the Carl T. Hayden VAHCS since March 2020.  This is probably the longest letter I have ever written.

Dr. B. Vela MD
Interim Chief of Staff
Phoenix VA Healthcare System
650 East Indian School Rd
Phoenix, AZ 85012

Director Michael W. Fisher
VA Desert Pacific Healthcare Network
300 Oceangate, Suite 700
Long Beach, CA 90802

02 January 2021

Dr. M. Dave Salisbury PhD.
10002 N 7th St
APT 1125
Phoenix, AZ 85020

RE: Appeal of DBC Decision 11 December 2020.

Greetings Dr. Vela and Mr. Fisher,

On 02 Jan 2021, I signed for and received a certified letter postmarked 21 Dec 2020, dated 11 Dec 2020.  Why all the delays?  If I have 30-days from the day the letter is dated, why did the VA steal 10-days?  The letter originates from the Disruptive Behavior Committee (DBC), which claims I have been warned of causing disruptive behavior at the Carl T. Hayden VA Hospital in Phoenix, AZ.  The letter received claims,

On December 09, 2020, a member of our DBC contacted you by phone to discuss these concerns, provide behavioral expectations while in the medical center, and to remind you of the importance of maintaining a safe and respectful environment of care.”

I received a call from Nurse Crawford on or about 09 December 2020, who listened politely to the problem and said nothing else.  The conversation was useless as the nurse relayed nothing but platitudes, agreed that I have the right to be safe in the medical center, and then harped about the COVID Mask policy.  No intention, no motivation to aid or support, no opportunities for progress, no ability to come to a solution, nothing.  I got off this call, and my wife, who has heard my entire side, asked, “Did that call solve anything?”  No, that call solved nothing, provided no information, and wasted everyone’s time!

11 December 2020, Dr. Moore, the chair of the DBC Committee, calls me complaining of my disruptive behavior, declaring that while I have a right to be safe in the hospital, I must wear a mask, and now suffer under the onerous DBC committee rules to enter and exit the VA Hospital because of a pattern of non-compliance witnessed as behavioral issues.  Dr. Moore indicated that I have the right to be safe.  I have the expectation of being treated professionally, but since there is a pattern of “disruptive behavior,” my rights have been canceled, and I now must obey DBC requirements.

In plain speak, I am in the wrong for insisting that I cannot safely wear a COVID mask, and the policy problems and leadership issues at the VA are all my fault.  I am being blamed for the VA Police being tyrannical and obscene in their actions of discrimination against those who cannot physically and safely wear a mask.  The VA Hospital in Phoenix is closed to me until I comply with wearing a mask, which I cannot physically and safely perform.

Using Dr. Moore’s and Nurse Crawford’s logic and the Phoenix VA Health Care System (Paragraph 1 of the DBC Letter), let us see if I understand the problem because, frankly, I have no clue.

The Phoenix VA Health Care System [VAHCS] is committed to providing an environment where everyone feels safe and respected.  Our goal is to provide exceptional care that improves the health and well-being of our veterans.  We also work diligently to maintain a safe environment for staff, veterans, and visitors to our facility.”

If I, as the patient, have the ability and right to be safe from harassment, HIPAA violations, and respect, but cannot physically wear a mask, I have no right to service at the VA Hospital.  But, if somehow, I can wear a mask, I am not harassed, denigrated, derided, and injured by federal employees; however, my HIPAA and legal rights under EMTALA remain in doubt.  Do I interpret this statement correctly from the point of view of the employees of the VAHCS?  Because this is precisely the problem, I cannot wear a mask safely or without causing additional harm to myself, and my first obligation in the PACT team is to protect what health I still have.

I cannot physically wear a mask.  I have a letter from my VAHCS Primary Care Provider for my employer to establish workplace accommodations where I do not have to wear a mask.  Yet, this same letter is insufficient for the VA Employees who keep refusing me access to the ED, refusing to honor appointments, refusing to schedule appointments, causing a scene by crying to the VA Police when I do not immediately comply with their mandates to wear a mask, and all because I cannot safely wear a mask.

30 June 2020, I was refused service at the VA ER because I cannot wear a mask due to breathing issues.  Before entering, in the courtyard where the COVID screening was occurring outside in Phoenix Summer night heat, I was informed that I could hold the mask in front of my face, and this is an acceptable workaround or wear a face shield.  There were no face shields available at this person’s station, and I was informed to ask inside at the ER check-in for a face shield.  Upon entering the ER to be checked in, the office staff refused the information provided at the entrance and said, “If the mask is not worn, we are refusing service.”  I have had shortness of breath, not lung-related, for many years now, which continues to worsen, and I cannot safely wear a mask.  This information is noted in my VA Medical records.  I have been through several rounds of breathing tests, which confirm my lungs work great. Still, I remain short of breath, dizzy, unstable when walking.  When wearing any mask, my breathing problems increase and include lightheadedness and nausea, until eventually, my vision grays, and I pass out.  The original problem was diagnosed at the Salt Lake City VA Medical Center (2010/2011).

I stumbled to my vehicle, at which point I am shortly surrounded by VA Police Officers who claim they were called because a patient was disruptive in the ER.  I was not disruptive in the ER.  When I saw the intransigence of the ER Staff and was refused service, I walked out!  No screaming, no swearing, no throwing furniture, no issues.  I did not have sufficient breath to walk, let alone commit the atrocities I was accused of, and yet, this is supposedly the first incident in a “pattern of disruptive behavior.”  It appears to me the VA Employees breaking the law (EMTALA) needed a reason, so they created a handy excuse and blamed the patient!

08 July 2020, I walked into the VA through the south entrance, not wearing a mask, and those performing the COVID check did not offer a mask, offer a face shield, or say anything.  I walked to the ER; the admitting person did not mention my need for a mask, nor did they ask why I was not wearing a mask; I was checked in to be seen in the ER.  Shortly, I was triaged, and the triage nurse did not say anything about a mask.  I sat in the ER for 3-hours, and none of the medical staff, hospital staff, employees, or Federal Officers walking past ever mention the need for a mask.  I sat away from other people to avoid having any problems.

At the 3-hour mark, I told the ER staff I must get food, and I walked to the Patriot Store feeling sick because of diabetes, pain, and nerve issues, needing food.  On my way, an employee whines about me not wearing a mask, and I ignore this person as my medical information is private, and I should not have to explain to every nosy-nelly about why I am not wearing a mask.  I complete my purchases and suddenly, the VA Police, who were called by the unknown VA Employee, are there insisting I need to wear a mask.  The nosy employee stood around, crowing about how he was available if the police needed more information.  For the first of at least 40-times, I explain that I cannot physically wear a mask to protect my health and safety.  No swearing, no disruptive behavior, I cannot wear a mask, and I was on my way back to the ER to wait to be seen.

I am met in the ER by Officer LT. Hicks and a plainclothes officer claiming to be a LT.  At which point, I begin again to explain that I cannot wear a mask.  I was not causing a scene before this; I was not causing a scene after this; however, when 8-10 VA Police Officers surround a person, a scene is created, and it is not the patient’s fault that a disruptive scene has commenced.  I was not screaming; I was not swearing; I was not disruptive as this 40+ minute harassment began.  In the end, I will admit fully, my cherub-like demeanor had evaporated, and swearing did occur.  When you spend 40+ minutes saying the same thing over and over to no effect, my aggravation level went up.  I contend the scene was started, provoked, antagonized, aggravated, irritated, and exasperated by the Federal Police Officers who more than once accused me of “Blowing rainbows up their butts,” lying about my breathing problems, and riling the situation.  The officers accused me of lying about my medical records, medical problems, and reasons for not wearing a mask.  Let me repeat when this scene began with LT. Hicks, I was told I needed to either wear a mask or a face shield.  Nobody in the ER had a face shield, and when I was handed a face shield and put the face shield on, the officers continued to harass, torment, and rile the situation.  I complied, they changed the “policy,” and I got arrested and cited.

I do not have the breath to be hostile!  Because of the nerve issues I have and diabetes still needing food, I do not have the strength to be disruptive.  I do not have the breath to be hollering and screaming!  I do fully admit that the tinnitus I suffer from has me speaking louder than many other people, especially as my breathing worsens.  I gasp out words and do not care about polite volume, and I need to be left alone during these episodes to catch my breath and calm the nerves.  But this incident on 08 July is the epitome of VA Police Officers aggravating a problem when they could have simply left well enough alone as I was NOT breaking any rules, policies, or committing a crime on Federal Property.  If a policy is not written down, it is not a policy, and it is not enforceable.  Had the VA Officers ended the scene when I put the face shield on, there would not have been another problem, and I would have been seen in the ER for my medical issues.

15 October 2020, I reported to the Federal Courthouse without a mask and had my fines adjudicated from the 08 Jul incident. I paid $80 for “disorderly conduct” when I wasn’t disorderly, I paid $10.00 in parking fees.  The person deciding my case said, “If I have trouble entering the building in the future, I need to ask the volunteers doing the COVID screening to call their supervisor, who will then shepherd me around the VA.”  I was assured three times that there is a procedure to deliver healthcare services to the veterans who cannot physically wear a mask.  The person handling my case claimed they would take care of the other ticket received from the 08 July incident and introduced themselves as a Lieutenant of the VA Police Force.

21 October 2020, I arrive at the south entrance to the Phoenix VA from the parking garage.  I am confronted by a hysterical employee, claiming they were a supervisor, demanding I wear a mask at the COVID screening desk.  I followed the instructions from 15 October and asked for a supervisor.  The employee then requires I wait “outside the VA Hospital for privacy reasons.”  When I asked why, and for specifics, the employee becomes more hysterical, calls the VA Police instead of answering questions, and erroneously claims I am causing a disturbance.  The supervisor arrives, negates what was told me on the 15th of October, and claims that wearing masks is a policy, then demands that mask-wearing is not a policy but a directive. When I asked for a copy of the policy, directive, guideline, etc., I was pointed to a sign.  I asked for the supervisor’s supervisor, called this person for assistance, and the VA Police interrupt my call and demand I finish my business off VA Property and then shadow me off VA Property, meaning I cannot return for 24-hours.  I had around 10-VA Police Officers attempting to intimidate me, again, because I asked questions and insisted upon logical answers that the VA employees refused to deliver.  No swearing, no screaming, no disruptive behavior of any kind, and I was outside the VA Hospital the whole time.  The traffic and witnesses were displaced for the VA Police Officers, not because of me.

The VA Police do not have a copy of the mask policy, directive, guideline, etc., to pass out to people who ask for one.  The supervisor does not have a copy or document with the mask policy clearly spelled out, except to point to a sign demanding obeisance.  Yet, the person needing VA medical or other assistance is expected to blindly follow an unwritten “policy” that continues to shift from draconian to obscene and back again on the bureaucrat executing policy’s whims.  This is immoral, unethical, and illegal, plus it makes the VA the laughingstock of every other hospital and care facility.

While I was able to speak to the supervisor’s supervisor, Jennifer Russoniello, and discuss the most recent incident and conduct some of the business I went to the VA Hospital for; I remain not pleased.  The failure to access the VA to obtain the medication needed is directly contributory to my ER visit on the 28th of October.  The continued confusion at the VA sees patients being refused service if they cannot wear a mask, at the expense of the patient’s health.  It is important to note that the director possesses statutory authority to accommodate Washington D.C.’s policies for the local hospitals’ operation and patient safety.  Yet, the director continues to fail to execute leadership, demonstrate a concern for patient safety, or even clarify operational guidelines, policies, procedures, or work standards by writing them down and training the staff on how to enforce policy properly and legally.

Important to note, Jennifer Russoniello affirmed what the supervisor claimed, there is no written policy regarding COVD masking at the Carl T. Hayden VAHCS.  A memo was received directing the mask “policy.”  She further elaborated that because the COVID situation changes dramatically from day-to-day, and the CDC mandates change from hour-to-hour, the Carl T. Hayden Hospital Leadership had tasked her to help draft an acceptable policy that would benefit all veterans.  She then asked if she could use my story as support for preparing a cohesive policy, to which I agreed.

When Jennifer and I finished our conversation at the Wendy’s across the street from the Phoenix VAHCS, it was agreed that if I held a mask close to my face, it would be acceptable, and I could be seen at the Phoenix VAHCS.  I was told to keep the mask near my face anytime I was within 6’ of other people, and I could drop the mask when not talking or interacting with people.

28 October 2020, I wake up in a crisis, I have to get medication that has not arrived, and my body is in trouble.  Using the information from Jennifer Russoniello, my wife called the Phoenix VAHCS to alert Jennifer, and I was headed to the hospital ER.  Jennifer called me back, and I was unable to speak to her due to my nerve condition.  I arrived at the VA, held my mask to my face, went to the ER, and was treated without a problem.  No police harassment, no issues, nothing.

04 and 07 December 2020, I receive two text messages from the VA regarding my upcoming appointment.  I called the Radiology Department at the Phoenix VA specifically because I cannot physically wear a mask and wanted to make sure that I had waited four months to obtain this appointment and would not have any difficulties completing it.  The VA previously has refused service by providers because I cannot physically wear a mask; canceled only after I had traveled to the VA, waited in the waiting room, only to be told by the provider to go home or wear a mask.  Thus, I wanted to ensure this would not be the case with this MRI.

After five phone transfers, I finally spoke to Scott, who identified himself as the Radiology Supervisor.  I explained my predicament, explained who he could call to discuss the problem, and called him a second time to provide the name of the person I have been working with a Jennifer Russoniello, along with her extension.  Later that afternoon, Jennifer Russoniello returned my call and assured me all was in order.  The workaround we worked out was for me to hold a mask in front of my mouth and nose.  That way, the mask is not causing breathing difficulties, and I am then in compliance with the mask mandates.  This arrangement had worked previously during an Emergency Room (28 October 2020) visit; thus, I kept my appointment.

For the MRI, I was ordered no food or drink 4-6 hours before the appointment.  Two-hours was the scheduled time to be on the MRI table.  I planned my day, including my medications, food, and drink, around returning home quickly and relaxing.  Because history has proved that an MRI leaves me weak, hurt, and highly nerve sensitive, along with the usual sore muscles and other issues.

I arrived for my appointment, cleared the useless “COVID Screening” at the south entrance to the Phoenix VA, and proceed to Radiology.  At Radiology, I meet a supervisor (Paul?) who was to escort me around the hospital to ensure I did not get hassled by the VA Police, per Jennifer Russoniello.  I checked into Radiology.  When my name is called, I am met at the traffic control door by Scott, the Radiology supervisor, and an MRI Technician.  Scott refuses to allow me entrance because I am not physically wearing my mask.  I explain I cannot physically wear a mask; I walk with a cane, so one hand is full, and the other was full of cellphone, MRI paperwork, glasses, and floppy cloth mask.  I held the mask up to my face and claimed this is the best I can do to follow the “COVID Policy.”  Then asked if the MRI appointment was still on or not, repeated 5-different times.  Scott visibly has confusion written all over his face and cannot or will not decide.  No swearing, no disruptive behavior, no loud talking, and still the supervisor who had already spoken to Jennifer Russoniello about my mask problems is refusing service at the VA because of the mask mandate.  I am doing nothing wrong, nothing illegal, and nothing that could be classified as disruptive.  That other patients laugh as they observe Scott’s unprofessional behavior is not my problem; I did not laugh, I did not swear, I did not raise my voice, and did not cause a problem.  I simply stated my mask issue and asked if the MRI was going to occur.

After the sixth question regarding the MRI being canceled or not, the MRI tech turns slightly to Scott and says, “Why don’t we just do the MRI?”  At which point, Scott clears the door, and the process of changing clothes, answering pre-MRI questions and waiting for a room to open begins.  I walk to the MRI room without a mask, without problems, and without further questions about my mask-less face.  I suffer through the MRI.  After the MRI, I am told that “To get back to the dressing room, you have to be masked,” and I am offered a washcloth to hold close to my face.  I follow this request to the best of my ability while walking/staggering down an empty hallway, physically weak and exhausted from the MRI, the pain, the exertion, and the lack of food.

My trip to the dressing room is vital for two reasons: 1) I kept losing my leg strength, which is normal after MRI’s but coupled with the lack of food, and I am in trouble if I cannot get food soon.  2) Nothing else is said about my not wearing a mask.  I exit the dressing room, walk out through the traffic control door, and spot two VA Police Officers looking like they are involved in a long discussion with Peter, the supervisor dispatched from Jennifer Russoniello, to help me navigate the bureaucrats at the Phoenix VA.

I walk out, headed for the elevator, and the two VA Police Officers start calling my name.  I intend to go home!  Yet, the VA Police are delaying this because I cannot physically wear a mask.  Officer Interpreter places himself directly into my path, shouting about my need to wear a mask; when I politely try to sidestep him, he pushes back, physically pushing me backward.  The second officer is a Sgt. I think his name tag read “HUFF,” I am not sure, but calling him Sgt. Huff is acceptable, places himself beside Officer Interpreter, blocking my immediate path to the elevators.  Please note, I do not have the breath to be disruptive, scream, holler, rant, rave, or cause a scene.  I physically do not have the strength to argue or to carry on.  I have to get food immediately, or I will be unable to drive.  I attempt to explain all this to the VA Police Officers. Whose only reply is delivered in raised voices with great hostility, “We are not here to debate you,” “We are NOT here to discuss this with you; put a mask on!” and, “If you do not put a mask on immediately, we will arrest you on a felony.”  When I asked for the specific felony the officers are accusing me of, they redirect the conversation because they know they are on shaky and illegitimate legal grounds.

For the next 10-minutes or so, these two officers will yell, threaten, cajole, attempt to intimidate, and eventually will choose to place me in handcuffs, threatening me with felonious charges unspecified.  When Officer Interpreter finally decided to act and arrest me, he ordered me to turn around.  Not being able to turn around and knowing that Sgt. Huff was already behind me, I would not move.  I had previously almost collapsed during these officer’s tirades, more than once, and any movement at this point would be hazardous to my remaining upright and safe; my legs are shaking and weak already from the MRI.  But Officer Interpreter refuses to listen to any explanation on my part.  At this point, without knowing the extent of my injuries, Officer Interpreter places two hands upon me, thumbs in the armpits, mid-top of the biceps, and attempts to spin me to the left, towards the wall, in a standard police maneuver seen on every police show Hollywood produces.  After which, my legs collapsed!  My Thoracic Spine turned to the left, while my Lumbar and Cervical Spine remained stationary.  I hit the floor hard, cutting two fingers in four places, and I begin bleeding like mad!  I also scratched my right arm in two places while falling. I did not realize until showering the next day; neither scratch is deep enough to need medical attention, but they are all apparent injuries sustained when violently attacked by Officer Interpreter.

Officer Interpreter then tells me, “You collapsed on purpose; your injuries are faked.”  The supposedly superior officer, Sgt. Huff quickly picks up this mantra.  This attack (07 Dec 2020) has left me with increased pain in both knees, cramps in the L-Spine, a feeling of disconnection between my T- and L-Spines, and my cut fingers just keep bleeding.  Sitting and standing are more painful, and I have less stamina for sitting, standing, walking, and more problems breathing.  Every time the officers handled me and collapsed my legs, shots of pain went through my body; I can only guess I screamed out.  That generally happens when someone who is already suffering from chronic pain suffers more pain; check my medical records, and you see, I typically live in the land of 6 and 7 pain levels.  No swearing: I worked very hard during this incident to maintain a sense of professionalism even in my weakened state.  I fully admit my cherub-like demeanor evaporated when I got pushed, but I worked hard to control my tongue.

Collapsing my legs on 07 December 2020, like every time the VA Police have manhandled me, ignites a pain and nerve storm inside my body.  I jerk, spasm, twitch, stutter, eventually lose my ability to speak, and involuntary movements explode out my arms, legs, neck/head, hands, and feet.  My breathing problems intensify.  I try explaining this to the officers every time, and every time I am insulted, denigrated, accused of faking the injuries, and causing a disturbance to cover their ineptitude and unprofessionalism.  In Holding Cell 1, as Officer Huff is removing one handcuff, my arm spasms involuntarily, and he complains I am trying to hit him.  False accusations abound in this sordid saga!

My safety is placed at risk when I wear a mask, yet the VA is the only medical facility in the Phoenix Metro area with a problem of me not wearing a mask.  I have had MRIs, consultations, a gall bladder surgery, which involved a full day in the ER, then two days in hospital, all without a mask.  Thus, even though the first, and allegedly, most important SAIL Matrix is Safety, as in the patient’s safety, I am discriminated against because I cannot wear a mask. The Phoenix VA leaders cannot sufficiently establish policies and guidelines to protect my safety.

Once standing, with officer assistance, I was placed in a wheelchair where I struggled to breathe.  Sitting in a wheelchair is hard for me because I cannot straighten out enough to breathe fully.  My fight or flight response goes haywire when the nerve issues begin and does not conclude for days afterward.  Yet, on top of all my other cautionary statements about handling me and not inflicting more pain, the officers insisted I sit in a wheelchair.  Worse, the officers felt it was needed to handcuff me with my arms behind my back while sitting in a wheelchair.  My back is in immense pain every time it is touched.  Yet, the officers continued to think it was acceptable to handcuff me, behind my back, where the cuffs, the bracelets around my wrists, are digging into my spine.  Every time we hit a bump, more pain shoots through my already injured and highly nerve sensitive body!  Sitting in a wheelchair, with my hands cuffed behind my back forces me to sit hunched over, making breathing even more difficult.  Where are my rights to patient safety in the VA Hospital?

The Federal VA Police officers repeatedly informed me, “You are doing this intentionally,” “Stop making a scene, you are not in that much pain,” and “You cannot be injured that badly.”  Let me be clear; the officers started this confrontation by not allowing me to go home!  My appointment was at the end of the day, so there were significantly empty hallways when I was scheduled to leave, meaning that I would not be disturbing people by not wearing a mask.  Then they compounded their errors by directly laying their hands upon me.  These two officers, and the officers from July, both felt they could violently lay hands upon a patient who is not being violent, are not acting irrationally, and this is WRONG!  If the patient is not acting in a manner that causes harm or injury to themselves, other patients, threatening the VA Police Officers, or damaging the VA physical facility, the policy should be HANDS OFF!

10 December 2020, south entrance to the VA Hospital, 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 the same overzealous supervisor from 21 October 2020, at the COVID screening station between the two entrance/exit doors.  I explain I cannot wear a mask when asked to wear a mask, and before the COVID screener can reply, the supervisor demands I stand out of the way, and he acts in a hostile and combative manner.  I followed directions; I stand out of the way while he goes further away to obtain instructions about me; supposedly, I was on some warning list.  With more apparent and palpable glee and hostility, the supervisor returns, informing me Jennifer Russoniello is coming to speak to me; she never arrived.  At this point, the supervisor demands I leave the hospital entrance, claiming I am blocking the path of traffic; yet, it is raining outside, I am out of traffic, and not causing a scene.  When the supervisor becomes more agitated and hostile, he calls the VA Police to have me removed.  The VA Police officer signals to leave me alone while I wait and the supervisor returns to his post.  Not 2-minutes later, another officer arrives, and the supervisor tells the arriving officer I am disturbing traffic and not following his commands.

Yet, except for my inability to wear a mask and stand in the rain, I have followed his commands; I am not disrupting the inbound or outbound traffic, I am standing out of the way, and I am silently waiting.  Soon a LT arrives, I didn’t get his name.  I got his attitude, antagonism, malevolence, and malice, but never witnessed his professionalism or ability to listen.  The LT, along with a SGT. and several other officers, proceed to block the doors so nobody can get in or out of the VA and proceed to blame me for blocking traffic.  I was not blocking traffic; I was not causing a scene. I was not disturbing anyone.  The VA Police officers did all these things.

I explain why I am there.  I explain I cannot wear a mask; I explain without swearing, screaming, or disrupting anyone I am waiting and trying to get to the ER.  The LT and the SGT then decide it is time to arrest me.  They grab my arms and jerk at the wrists to get my arms behind my back.  My wrists are still visibly bruised from the 07th of December incident, and I scream in pain.  To which they claim I am “faking my injuries,” then declaring, “If my wrists were really injured, there would be bandages on them,” among other derogatory comments.  My nerves kick-off and my pain jumps to 15, as I am manhandled into a wheelchair, from which I cannot breathe properly, and then taken through the rain to Holding Cell 2.  Is this clear? 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 07th of December arrest and injuries.  Under EMTALA, the Federal Emergency medicine law, this is illegal.  As a patient with rights, whose primary job is to look after my safety, I am left amazed at the treatment I keep receiving.

Every curb hit, every bump hit, every single expansion line in the sidewalks hit, my pain spikes, and I holler out in agony.  Yet, every time I mention this, I am told to shut up, stop acting, stop faking, and that I deserve the trouble I am receiving at the VA Police’s hands.  But the irony of the entire saga of illegal actions, immoral treatment, and unethical behavior from the VA Police and immature VA Federal employees is encapsulated in being reported to the DBC for behavioral issues.

I have not been disruptive.  I have not exhibited behavioral problems worthy of this charge and action by the VA Police or the DBC.  I have in no way broken any law or refused any reasonable demand.  I have been seen at the Phoenix VA historically two other times, and never a problem.  I have been seen at various other VA facilities across the continental United States and never had a problem with the Federal VA Police, anywhere.  The VA at a VA Hospital has employed me, and I never had a problem with the VA Police.  Since March 2020, the third time I am a patient with the Phoenix VAHCS, I have nothing but problems as professionalism has shrunk and the bureaucratism has increased exponentially!

Ask yourself this, if you are in pain, and you go to a hospital ER for services and are refused service, are you a happy person?  If you are in constant pain, and someone pushes you, violently spins you, and causes your pain to elevate, do you cry out in pain?  If so, according to the DBC and the VA Police’s pretzel logic, you disrupted the hospital and caused a disturbance.  If you explain something 50+ times to a person, are you still a pleasant and friendly person to be around?  I have explained hundreds of times why I cannot wear a mask, where to find this data in my medical records, and been accused of lying, “blowing rainbows up a person’s butt,” and had other derogatory and insulting remarks made about me and to me.

Tell me, if you hear your private medical diagnoses bandied about as a joke, do you take offense?  Do you become upset when your safety is threatened and your personal space is violated for no cause?  If so, then you cannot allow this atrocious decision by the DBC to stand.  Nor should you allow another minute to pass before ending the policies creating the problems and safety issues.  Three times I have needed emergency care at the Carl T. Hayden VAHCS since my return in March 2020 and been refused.  Refusing emergency care at an emergency room receiving federal funds to operate is against the LAW (EMTALA); yet, the VAHCS in Phoenix is somehow exempt?  Twice, I have had additional injuries heaped upon the pain I am already suffering, and thrice I have been cited for being disorderly when the VA Police Officers were the ones causing the scene, disrupting traffic, and antagonizing situations.

10 December 2020, in Holding Cell 2, in front of at least eight other officers, Major Kratz barges into the holding cell, screaming, hollering, and shaking his sausage-like fingers in my face.  Making demands and acting irrationally, yet I face DBC consequences, which does not make sense.  While trying to leave the VA, sitting in my POV, the LT who started all the trouble on the 10th of December, places his hands upon my vehicle, leans against my door, and refuses to allow me to leave until he has finished insulting, denigrating, and making stupid accusations!

I fully admit, my cherub-like demeanor with the VA Police is gone, and I refuse to replace the cherub-like demeanor while I remain criticized, insulted, dismissed, injured, and falsely accused!  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 or safely wear a mask.

30 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 and openly hostile caller.  The caller then dared to declare that “Patients do not tell the hospital what they will and will not do.”  Seriously!?!?!  I have legitimate safety and health issues that have been recorded on the VA Medical records, and this caller duplicates 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 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 diagnoses, mental health records, and other medical data.  Having non-medical personnel know this confidential data is a HIPAA violation, clear and straightforward.  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 07th 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 diagnoses.  The VAMC director claims it is legal.  The caller claimed they have never had this data.  I smell bureaucrats covering themselves, 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, unprincipled, unbefitting, unbecoming, 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 dared 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?  Why should I be anything but irate and wary when I have come to expect treatment that should shame any professional?  I listened very carefully to the bloviations and blather of this bureaucrat, which is why, at this point, I disconnected the call.

The call lasted 8 minutes, and was full of bureaucratic nonsense, and left me out of breath, gasping for air, and vehement to the Nth degree, and out of my mind with umbrage and indignation!  Why did the Assistant Deputy Director of VA Police call me?  What is his job?  Since his job 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 first by a zealous VA Police Officer jerking my spine and cutting my spinal cord?  If patients cannot inform a police officer that what they are doing is causing injury, then the VA Police Officer is wrong!  If a patient who is not causing trouble, is continuously harassed, threatened, accused of lying, and injured, and then can be placed on DBC policies for unspecified behavioral issues, based solely upon the cowardly, unscrupulous, and disreputable conduct of the VA Police and the inadequate policies and directives of the hospital leadership, then the entire organizational leadership needs to be replaced, forthwith!

I fully admit, I got frustrated and swore!  I fully admit when my pain levels went up, and I got hit, spun, collapsed, and more, I screamed in agony.  I have repeatedly tried to be proactive and avoid being in a position where the VA Police are concerned. Still, I cannot safely and physically wear a mask, and this is NOT a crime worthy of all the bureaucratic lunacy and foolishness I keep suffering.  I have not caused a single-issue worthy of VA Police intervention, EVER!

I have been a victim of overzealous, hostile, inept, and incompetent supervisors who become ludibrium verius malum when someone asks them a question.  I have been a victim of unprincipled, unscrupulous, disreputable professionals gifted with a badge or authority above their competence who are policy tools off the VAHCS, whose policy is poorly dictated and inappropriately applied.  I have been illegally treated and mistreated to the pleasure of the ludibrium verius malum functionaries.  Thus, I refute the charges laid against my good name and character.  I refuse to be labeled as a “behavioral problem” when I have done nothing wrong!

In no uncertain terms, the decision from the DBC should be immediately rejected, and the entire record struck of all accusations. Immediately restitution needs to be made for causing me injuries by the hands of emotionally impassioned ludibrium verius malum tools!  I have committed no crime!

I have done nothing worthy of any of the treatment I have received since March 2020 at the hands of the VA.  I deserve justice, not accusations of behavioral misconduct.  I deserve justice for the misconduct, malfeasance, impropriety, delinquency, crime, and mistreatment I have suffered.  I deserve answers, and I intend to keep complaining until my rights are restored and my good name cleansed and scoured of the tyrannical, unjust, and oppressive actions of these disastrous federal employees.  There is NO excuse for what I have suffered!

As a professional organizational psychologist, I place my integrity and honor on what I have reported, observed, experienced, witnessed, heard.  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 not 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 I complied in July.

Let us 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 policy is the biggest problem I face when obtaining 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 the policies are being enforced.  The VA has established an organizational design that requires a veterans 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; that the only medical offices, radiological departments, emergency rooms, and hospitals in the Phoenix, Arizona area where mask policies are causing discrimination and refusal of service is at the Carl T. Hayden Veterans Administration Health Care System, and this is 100% wrong!  The Entire VA Leadership Team should be highly embarrassed and entirely held accountable!

Where is respect for me at the VA?  Where is my patient safety?  Where is my ability to conduct business in an atmosphere free of harassment, intimidation, and discrimination?  If the Phoenix VAHCS desires atmospheres free of harassment, intimidation, and discrimination, they first must provide what they desire.

Sincerely,

Dr. M. Dave Salisbury
Ph.D./MBA/MAET
Dual Service-Disabled Veteran

CC: Meyers & Telles Attorneys at Law
Senator Mark Kelly
Rep. Greg Stanton

A Recent Customer Service Issue – Or, An Example of Why it is Past Time to Shift the Employment Paradigm

            Many sources, most of them veterans, will agree with this statement, “Dealing with the Veterans Administration is an activity fraught with hostility.”  On March 2013, I had the misfortune to experience another hostile occurrence.  Following is what happened.  The VA Hospital left a message in my voicemail alerting me that they had scheduled an appointment for me.  The message included instructions for me to call if this appointment caused scheduling difficulties, which it did.  I called the number, punched in the extension, was hung up on once, called back, and reached an appointment scheduler. The VA had scheduled my appointment for the middle of my workday, which required that I take time off my job to make the return call to discuss the scheduling conflict of the appointment.  The request was simple; please change the appointment to either early morning or late afternoon.  Although I requested no date preferences, travel and loss of work considerations were important and difficult to arrange and especially significant because I was a new employee and attendance is critical.

            The attitude of the appointment scheduler went from simple hostility to overt and active hostility at my request to move the appointment time.  The appointment scheduler reminded me in the most descriptive tones bordering, but not crossing into, profanity that it is “YOUR RESPONSIBILITY” [Emphasis his, meaning my responsibility] to keep the appointments as scheduled by the VA regardless of the inconvenience it causes me.  December 2012, before the start of my current employment, this appointment had been scheduled three times.  The VA canceled the appointment three times, and only once was the cancellation communicated to me prior to my driving to the hospital, checking in, and waiting for the appointment.  The same appointment scheduler provided the same hostile attitude in person as on the phone and made the following statements, quoted verbatim:

“Employment is NOT an excuse for moving an appointment with the VA Hospital System.” [Emphasis his]

“Moving your appointment is a privilege being extended to you that has not been earned.”

Judging by certifications on the walls of this person’s office, he is an example of award winning customer service at the VA Medical Center.  Having been a patient at several VA Medical Centers across the country, having been a customer at several of the VA Regional Offices, and having been a customer of the various VA Call Centers, unfortunately I have found this attitude typical.  This conversation was reported to the Patient Aligned Care Team (PACT) for review.  I declined further follow-up as unnecessary.  The PACT team member did have a unique thought process; she continually returned with the same descriptive term for this incident, ‘not compassionate’.  I refuted this determination several times claiming unprofessional, irresponsible, and ludicrous, but the main complaint continued to be ‘not compassionate’.  The term simply does not fit the incident.  This incident was not created by a lack of compassion, but through an organizational culture gone rogue, hostile, and grown wild.

Returning to the incident, let us be clear and simple; the problem is not the workload the scheduler was quick to point out and often stated the amount of appointments scheduled in a month; it is not the individual; always the problem remains with the system, the organization, the processes and procedures, and finally the training.  This is institutional deterioration at its most egregious level.  “Juran’s rule (Tribus, n.d., pg 5) whenever there is a problem, 85% of the time it is in the system; only 15% of the time will it be the worker.”  This is very telling in this situation.  Before looking to the worker, examining the system will be the answer 85% of the time.  Organizational cultures are the “system” described by Tribus (n.d.) and Juran.  Organizational Designers will specify cultural steps for improvement, thus the PACT team, the focus on compassion, and the ultimate deception ‘customer focus’ hidden under the guise “Patient Aligned Care.”

The problem is a dual core issue, no personal responsibility for outcomes and no personal accountability for results.  This is the organizational culture feeding the hostility, the derision, and animosity found in all VA/Veteran interactions.  The front-facing customer service agent is not held accountable nor feels a responsibility towards the work he or she performs.  Because the same employee is protected in his work by the system, the system becomes a detriment to patient/customers and safeguards the individual from criticism and censure preventing the possibility of change in the individual.  The incredible amount of bureaucracy legislated, litigated, and lumped upon the VA must be exposed to the disinfectant of sunshine i.e. brought to the public attention, reduced bureaucracy in support of veterans and their families, and new solutions created to improve service.  The real solution is not focusing upon a culture grown wild, but short-circuiting the existing corporate culture to jumpstart a new culture.  It is past time, especially where all government agencies are concerned, to shift the paradigm, remove the job security, and breathe the life of freedom and true customer centered focus, i.e. the taxpayer, back into the various government and non-government organizations.

Considering the above incident, if the scheduler was an independent knowledge contractor whose contract extension rested solely upon the referrals and customer surveys of the VA’s customers, the above incident would not have occurred because accountability and responsibility would demand the patient receive higher value as a customer.  If the same accountability and responsibility were carried to the entire chain of command, to all the processes and procedures, and to the organizational hierarchies, the VA would not be the punchline before the epithet in a veteran’s story, but become respected for the work it does.  Yes, the VA has a difficult task to perform.  Yes, the workload is daunting.  Yes, as a government entity, cost constraints and budget decisions matter more than patient care.  Nevertheless, the patient should be more respected, valued, and serviced more appropriately.  By shifting the employment paradigm, an advantageous outcome to all stakeholders involved in the organization is a firmly projected possibility.

Reference

Tribus, M. (n.d.). Changing the Corporate Culture Some Rules and Tools. Retrieved December 5, 2008, from: Changing the Corporate Culture Some Rules and Tools Web site: http://deming.eng.clemson.edu/den/change_cult.pdf