Image from National WWII Memorial, Wash. DC by T. Ward Jordan, Photographer
(WASHINGTON, DC) -- In a recently released statement veterans, members of The Coalition For Change, Inc. (C4C), called for the U.S. Congress and the Obama administration to stop the political power play and to mandate that federal supervisory and management officials face discipline for willfully breaking civil rights and whistleblower-protection laws.
"The unrestrained retaliatory actions the VA supervisors take against subordinate employees cripples the agency's healthcare system and stifles many employees from exposing unfair customs, unsafe conditions and unlawful practices," said Oliver Mitchell, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran and a former employee with the Veterans Affairs' Greater West Los Angeles Medical Center Imaging Service, Radiology Section. While serving as a Patient Services Assistant, Mitchell received "excellent" performance ratings. "Things changed rapidly after I refused an order to purge patient documents," Mitchell explained. "The harassment started and VA officials detailed me repeatedly after I filed a whistleblower complaint with the Office of Special Counsel (OSC)."
According to Mitchell, both the VA's Office of Inspector General and the OSC failed to properly pursue the matter even after hearing Mitchell's submitted audio tape of employees discussing how to destroy veteran patients' records. "Although I declined to purge patient records, VA officials hired another employee to delete valid MRI requests from the system as a means of reducing the backlog," said Mitchell, now homeless after being constructively removed from the U.S. Veterans Affairs pursuant to terms put in a settlement agreement.
"The constructive discharge is a popular tactic used in discharging complaining parties," said Janel Smith, a disabled Air Force veteran and the Vice President of the Coalition For Change, Inc. (C4C).
Ralph Saunders, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran and a former employee with the VA's New Orleans Medical Center, agreed that reprisal against employees who file complaints is a daunting problem. According to Saunders, VA personnel once destroyed his medical documents and subjected him to endless reprisal after he filed an Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) complaint against a manager who had denied him requested time off from work to accommodate his wife's heart-surgery operation. Saunders prevailed in his discrimination complaint (Saunders v Shinseki, Case Number 200L-0629-2004-100828).
Unequivocally, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) found managers (Cassandra Holiday, Jeanette Butler, and Linda Cosey) guilty of "abusing the rules" and "retaliating against Saunders for his protected EEO activity." The EEOC also found "evidence that officials retaliated against other employees who filed EEO complaints." Saunders, who had worked sixteen years with the VA before officials targeted him for removal from federal service, is presently challenging the VA on a settlement-breach issue.
"Retaliation by rogue VA managers is destroying the lives of men and women who served honorably on active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces," said Isaac Decatur, a U.S. Navy veteran, who after eighteen years with the department was fired from Veterans Affairs' Durham, North Carolina, office after filing an EEO complaint (Decatur v Shinseki, 0120073404).
"I wrote to President Obama about the VA's failure to take discipline against the supervisors who engaged in the blacklisting of employees and who the EEOC found guilty of discrimination," said Decatur. "My letter to the President spurred a reply letter from the EEOC in which the federal agency, charged with enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination, openly asserted: While EEOC orders agencies to consider; we have no authority to issue discipline."
"Some of these VA managers need to face conspiracy criminal charges for destroying veterans' records and engaging in various illegal activities," said Chauncey L. Robinson, who served in the Persian Gulf War. Robinson reported that he has been waiting twenty-one years for the VA to process his claim for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and a heart condition. "VA officials destroyed my records," said Robinson, who joined other veterans in a class-action lawsuit that asserts the VA has been systematically violating veterans' due process for decades (Gary Kendall v Eric A. Shinseki, Secretary of Veterans Affairs Case No. CV07-103-S-EJL).
"The ill-treatment of VA's workforce harms the well-being of VA's employees as well as the veterans deserving of timely health care and benefits," said Al Hunt, III, a Gulf War veteran and a former VA supervisor with the New Orleans Medical Center. Hunt explained that he was forced to resign from the VA due to discriminatory practices and harassment. "I refused to be complicit in a managerial scheme to write-up and fire black veterans who bravely served our country solely because they had exposed civil rights abuses in the VA workplace," Hunt said.
"Internal federal workplace dysfunction will continue to adversely impact public programs and services until supervisors and managers are held accountable for violating civil rights and whistleblower-protection laws." said Tanya Ward Jordan, the President and Founder of the volunteer support and advocacy group, C4C.
About The Coalition For Change, Inc. (C4C)
The Coalition For Change, Inc. (C4C) is a Washington, DC-based volunteer organization comprised of present and former federal employees who have been injured or ill-treated due to workplace race discrimination and /or reprisal. C4C recently produced a YouTube video to expose how an internal broken workplace system harms the public. The video is entitled -- Veterans Affairs Dishonoring America's Veterans and Civil Servants.