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    Posted July 6, 2014 by
    str8swag
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    OPEN LETTER TO THE OFFICE OF SPECIAL COUNSEL

     
    My name is Oliver B. Mitchell. I am a veteran and a former employee of the Veterans Affairs (VA) Greater Los Angeles Health Care Center. Again, I write to the Office of Special Counsel (OSC) to seek redress on a whistleblower complaint I first made in 2009. My early disclosure deals with matters of preventable patient deaths, electronic wait lists and patient timely access to care.

    Notably, the concerns I brought forward over five years ago have now manifested in recent media coverage; yet, the OSC has not referred the specific concerns I brought forward in 2009 for investigation.

    In your letter to me dated October 13, 2009, OSC File No. MA-09-2658 you state “you allege that you have been retaliated against for engaging in whistleblowing activity and filing a complaint with the Office of Inspector General.”

    Furthermore, in your letter to me dated August 25, 2010, OSC File No. MA-09-2658 you state “although we confirmed that you made protected disclosures to the Department of Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General (OIG), the OIG insisted that it kept your identity confidential.”

    Also, in your letter to me dated September 13, 2010, OSC File No. MA-09-2658 you state “this letter is to advise you that for the reasons described in our predetermination letter of August 25, 2010, the OSC has closed the file on your complaint.”

    In each correspondence the OSC clearly demonstrated that it failed to properly inspect, conduct, and refer the matter to the appropriate agency head. Instead, the OSC merely concentrated on the retaliation and reprisal for whistleblowing.

    In response to much garnered media attention, I refiled my complaint on March 20, 2013. In your letter to me dated April 30, 2013, OSC File No. DI-13-2270 you state “the information we have received is insufficient for us to determine with a substantial likelihood that there has been gross mismanagement, an abuse of authority, or a substantial and specific danger to public health and safety. Therefore, we cannot take further action regarding your disclosure.”

    On March 6, 2014 I filed yet again with your office. To date the OSC has yet to refer the matter for investigation.

    In the way of background, in March 2009 I filed my first OIG complaint. Between March 24, 2009 through December 21, 2010 the VA OIG and myself, exchanged information relating to my VA OIG complaint.

    However, on April 14, 2009 the VA’s internal EEO office had included my VA OIG complaint within the agency’s discrimination complaint. This move was to suppress and cover-up my VA OIG complaint and prevent further investigation by the VA OIG and your office.

    In response to discovery with the VA, in VA/ EEOC Case No. 480-2010-00106X, on April 28, 2010, Interrogatories No. 3 and 4, I provided approximately 270 additional documents that corroborated and substantiated my allegations of “patient wait times, purging of documents, manipulation of wait time data, manipulation of electronic wait list, abuse of authority, fraud, waste and abuse.” The additional documents substantiated my allegations that have resulted in a specific danger to public health and safety.

    On January 7, 2011 I wrote to both the House and Senate Committee Veterans Affairs outlining my complaints and allegations.

    On March 15, 2011 I was constructively removed from my position at the Department of Veterans Affairs.

    On October 25, 2011 29 members from the 113th House of Representatives signed a letter to the Government Accountability Office (GAO) asking for an investigation into the West Los Angeles VA Medical Center. This investigation was based in whole or in part on my VA OIG and EEOC complaint to include the 270 additional documents I provided as evidence.

    Even after I shared with the OSC an audio in which VA officials discussed purging patient records, the ​independent federal investigative and prosecutorial agency, refused to investigate the claims I brought forward. On or about June 4, 2009, via electronic submission, I, Oliver B. Mitchell (a former VA Patient Scheduling Clerk) , filed a complaint with the OFFICE OF SPECIAL COUNSEL (OSC). At that time, I disclosed​ concerns about the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs “​purging of patient records, ​​the manipulation of a patient ten-year ​backlog, patient wait time​s​, death threats received, improper handling of medical request by Service Chief, improper gender discrimination by immediate supervisor and Service Chief, and the providing of MRI and X-Ray exams for non-veteran patients.”​

    Despite the OSC’s unwillingness to process my early disclosure under 5 U.S.C. § 1213(g) in 2013, I again approached your office. Still, OSC refused to refer the matter for investigation. Most recently, on June 4, 2014, I asked for a status update and the OSC replied “the Disclosure Unit is still in the process of reviewing your case and I will continue to keep you updated concerning its status” to refer the case for investigation. To my dismay, to date I have not received any confirmation as to whether your office will accept my complaint disclosure under 5 U.S.C. § 1213(g) and properly refer it for processing.

    This letter is to request status about the disclosure I made to your office about abuses within the VA. Specifically, I would like to know if OSC will accept my disclosure under 5 U.S.C. § 1213, what action has been or will be taken, and when such action will be completed. As called for by 5 U.S.C. § 1213(g), if accepted by OSC, I also request to be informed of the referral to the agency head.

    According to your website, disclosures of dangers to public health and safety are to receive “high priority.” Certainly the egregious 2014 revelations of the past few months involving veterans death due to VA’s failure to provide timely care should spark the OSC to investigate the specific concerns I reported involving violations of law, rule or regulation, gross mismanagement, abuse of authority, and a substantial and specific danger to public health and safety.

    As you are now aware, I was removed from my job at the Veterans Affairs’ (VA) Greater West Los Angeles Medical Center after filing a complaint with your office. I am now homeless after exposing VA’s failures that certainly posed danger to public health and safety.

    While I am pleased that my early whistleblowing has garnered the attention of news media and the public-at-large, I am dismayed that the OSC has yet to process my disclosure under 5 U.S.C. § 1213.

    In closing, please reply in writing as to whether or not the Special Counsel will refer the disclosure (I presented) to the appropriate agency head. According to 5 U.S.C. § 1213(c), the statute requires agency heads to complete the investigation and report back to OSC on their findings within 60 days. It is my understanding that under the statute 5 U.S.C. § 1213(e)(2), I should be afforded an opportunity to review and comment on the agency report. 5 U.S.C. § 1213(e)(1). If the report meets the statutory requirements, the Special Counsel then transmits the report to the President and the congressional committees with oversight responsibility for the agency involved.

    Oliver B. Mitchell

    Cc:

    Coalition 4 Change
    PO Box 142
    Washington, D.C.
    20044

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