Senior VA employees

Senior VA Employees Retaliate Against Sick Veterans

Senior VA employees

Benjamin KrauseHow would America respond if it knew the Department of Veterans Affairs was using totalitarian policies reminiscent of the USSR and Nazi Germany to silence veterans complaining of deficient health care delivery?

A totalitarian government occurs where the government attempts to control all aspects of its citizens lives, both publicly and in secret, with little to no ‘just’ accountability. In the mind of many veterans, current VA policies are not a far stretch from those exploited by these evil regimes in their day.

Yesterday, Journalist Angela Rae chose to interview me on DC Breakdown about our coverage here on VA’s secret Disruptive Behavior Committees, where reports indicate senior VA employees retaliate against sick veterans behind closed doors.

The interview should air on her show today, Tuesday, July 29, 2014. UPDATE: Here is the interview.

Angela Rae is a sharp journalist, and I will hand it to her for covering this issue. Many in this professional have chosen to back off VA police policies and how they harm veterans after area Directors plea with reporters about how shedding light on the harmful policy.

They cry that it will hurt VA in light of the current scandals…

[Read our earlier coverage on Disruptive Behavior Committees]

VA is now penalizing what should be considered protected speech by misrepresenting it as disruptive behavior, according to the reports I have received and analyzed.

Its authority to make regulations that governs “conduct” falls under 38 USC 901. Somehow, VA has gone from basic authority to govern conduct to the creation of secret committees without a single publication that shows the Disruptive Behavior Committees are working and/or justifiable. In fact, a recent OIG report concluded the committee rules are too vague to be properly applied across VA nationwide. OIG further reported statistics that indicate local administrators are abusing the flexibility of the program granted by the Secretary to manage local issues, much like the wait list scandal.

[Download VA OIG Report on Disruptive Behavior Committees]

How Disruptive Behavior Committees Work In A Nutshell

The reality is that VA has implemented a health care flagging system that illegally restricts the liberty of many veterans without trial. The restriction prevents veterans from easily accessing their right to health care whenever the need arises. Only after a secret committee hearing does the veteran find out whether or not they are “guilty” of disrupting business at VA by complaining.

If VA determines you are disruptive, they will send you an ambiguous letter that does not indicate the law, evidence or who the judge and jury were. The penalty may go on for a year or longer, so in many ways it resembles probation for criminals. However, at least criminals are given a chance to defend themselves prior to being found guilty through a trial.

Usually, the veteran then is required to check in with VA police, and he/she is only able to step on VA property if they have an appointment. There are no emergency services for these individuals, and further no access to veteran organizations housed within the VA facility since they do not take appointments, either. Some veterans are flatly prohibited from seeking VA health care all together without being given any other option.

In many instances, these secret hearings curiously occur after a veteran complains about poor VA health care. In the instances I have covered, a sick veteran first makes a complaint against a VA director or doctor for failing to treat. If VA determines the complaint is angry and hostile (the veteran is usually sick and/or in pain when the complain is made), they will likely flag the veteran by filing their own complaint rather than using common sense to assess the situation.

What we have here is a situation where VA senior managers abuse their police power in retaliation against sick veterans seeking care who file complaints after being victimized by VA, much like agency whistleblowers.

These veterans get none of the privileges and rights afforded common criminals. VA health care professionals have bragged that “This is not your father’s VA,” but just what kind of new VA is this exactly?

An answer can be found in recent headlines. Secret trials. No rights. Illegal wait lists. Retaliation against dissenters. Ballooning bureaucracy. No accountability. Rampant criminal behavior that kills and injures veterans…

This “new VA” resembles nothing less than Stalin’s secret committees in the USSR and Hitler’s tribunals in Nazi Germany. There was no oversight and victims of the policies had no chance at a fair shoot at getting justice.

Here, in many instances, the same veterans who are persecuted for speaking out are the same soldiers credited with taking down those oppressive regimes and the criminal tactics they used to silence dissenters. How ironic?

One Real World Example From A Veteran Victimized By Bay Pines VA Medical Center

Take a look at one real sample Disruptive Behavior Committee letter to a veteran found “guilty” of speaking out from Bay Pines VA Medical Center. This veteran gave me permission to publicize his story, but I did opt to remove some specific identifying information from his DBC letter.

The veteran lodged a complaint after being denied care for seven months and after being denied an opportunity to meet with the director of the facility to lodge his complaint directly. He wrote me saying:

I was speaking to the Primary Care Nurse Brenda Williams, I requested talking to the director. She informed me the director (Ms. Suzanne Klinker) did not meet with veterans at the VA. I was amazed. I told the Nurse I would meet her for breakfast, lunch of dinner, at Waffle House, McDonald’s, my house or her house.

I guess this is why the agents came to my residence and I was flagged.

After he said this to the nurse, the veteran reported that VA police stormed his home. He recorded the event on his cell phone, but the police then came over to him, took the phone, and deleted the evidence of their intrusion. They told the veteran he may be arrested and that his claims moving forward would all be “slow walked”. Apparently, “slow walked” is a common term used by VA against veterans who stand up for themselves.

Now, a competent professional would be able to determine that seven months of denials of health care was likely behind the veteran’s offer to meet the director wherever she would meet him since she refused to do her job at VA. Thus, the veteran was not a threat to anyone but merely desperate for health care.

Since the police action, the director did agree to speak with the veteran directly and he lodged a complaint with her. Only later did the veteran learn he was flagged after he filed the complaint.

Toward the middle of the first page of his flag letter, it reads, “VA staff members, and other veterans, have a right to expect to be treated with respect and courtesy in a safe environment.” It also indicates the veteran was flagged in the past, though he denies knowledge of this. Now, why does VA not apply their own rules their own employees? If what the veteran has reported is accurate, it is a clear violation of his right to free speech and to a fair evidentiary trial to ensure his speech was truly threatening, at all.

[Download PDF Disruptive Behavior Committee letter]

Questions About Disruptive Behavior Committees

And what about veterans? Are bad doctors flagged so that veterans can know if their doctor has received complaints? Or, is this a one way mirror scheme like at a cop shop for interrogation purposes?

Can you believe it? After your sacrifice, you are now squaring off against the same oppressive totalitarian policies you fought to destroy merely by complaining at a VA health care facility?

And this flagging scheme is not the only one out there. Another lawyer told me he is aware of a few different flagging systems VA uses that could result in harm to a veteran if they speak out or sue VA after an adverse event.

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  2. VA management reported me to the disruptive committee, stating I would come in to our local cboc at least twice a month and become disruptive, that’s a lot of times. When I requested they provide me and the senators office with the proof they used to punish me with! ,their reply there is no written evidence. Do you know why, it’s because they had nothing because it never happened in the first place, not only did they not have any evidence, the VA higher management, let the middle mananger who made the allegation in the first place answer any inquiries made! She sure in the heck is not going to admit she made a false report! , they punished me, with out me having an opportunity to defend myself in any shape or form! My civil and constitutional rights denighed, using hearsay by an employee whom I worked with when I was a VA employee. This was only done as retaliation for a comment, I made about how I felt she was running a certain committee, which she overheard! , you want evidence, you can have it all, if you can get me in front of an impartial committee, such as congress or a federal judge and the VA provide the same with the evidence they used! I am even willing to take a lie detector test, if the employees making the allegations will also take one and when they fail the test, they be held accountable for the false report! Jail time, not payed leave. Ready when you are! , the truth would come out and I’m not worried about the outcome! 100 percent disabled veteran!

  3. They only will rule against you as per Disruptive Behavior if you have zero community presence or zero social media presence – then there is zero risk of backlash; yet these are most likely the ones MOST need in care. It’s a sick, sick system we’re getting.

  4. I don’t know your sources or any of your documentation, but I have experienced just the opposite of what you are describing here in Columbus Ohio. I started going to the VA in Oct 2012. Everything went well until the summer of 2013 when my primary doctor changed. I had contact with patient advocates 3 times, the chief physician once , the director 3 times. I have been to the local paper once. I would think that that would have to be considered disruptive behavior, yet I have not experienced anything like you describe. If anything I experience the opposite. Today was a good example. I had an appointment at 10:30. I got there early, got a cup of coffee and checked in. I sat down, opened my bag, took out my book and got one paragraph in before I was called in.(This is after having made the appointment the day before, practically unheard of.) I was in and out so fast, my coffee didn’t get cold.
    If there is a problem up at the top, it needs to be dealt with. But I have to say (again) that the line employees, for the most part, are some of the most caring and dedicated people I have met.

    1. Just because you complain, doesn’t necessarily mean you are going to be flagged. The problem is that if you are, it is an arbitrary and without any due process. If you don’t think their are vindictive, little, a yes, even a little crazy people working at some VAs, then you are sadly mistaken.

    2. Mark Try working for the VA. Seriously. Go get a job there. You’ll see all you need to and more.

  5. yes they do this to us in housing How do you think they gain inside information to take back to the VA, happening to me right now… Iam one step from being evicted and cant get them to call landlords who want to rent to me.. another way they punish us for reporting our living conditions..

  6. Great article, Ben. And because I can read, I see that the piece includes supporting evidence in the body of the article. When VA employees such as Lubke howl in pain, you know you have struck a nerve. Keep up the good work, both veterans and taxpayers support you.

  7. Curious, how do GS-5 level VA Police Officers that have no jurisdiction outside of VA grounds come to a Vets house and search? Sounds kind of suspect. Of course every Vet who gets one of those letter thinks they are right and maybe 1 out of 10 are but the vast majority deserve those letters for the disruption they cause to the hospital staff and patients.

    1. JMS, do you have any proof or research that supports your claim that only 1 in 10 of the veterans pulled into the DBC process was wronged? Though, I would point out that a 10% error rate in denying a veteran’s right to health care or obstructing their liberty is a REALLY HIGH ERROR RATE by any standard. Perhaps VA should go back to the drawing board to create a system that does not deprive so many veterans of their liberties? The secret committee issue is a scandal in itself.

      1. Thank you Ben! Ironic, I formed “Veterans’ Equal Rights Protection Advocacy (V’ERPA)” under the laws of the State of MN in 1999. I have never heard ANYONE explain the gross betrayal of trust issues as you have in this interview. If this case survives a “second-motion-to-dismiss” in challenging 38 USC 511 and all its case of first impression and federal question challenges; I would be honored if you would consider taking it over … as it speaks directly to what you just stated about willful and deliberate violations of our liberty and property interests in direction violation of the SOCUS Feres Doctrine “second-rationale” of 1950. Thanks again!

      2. Benjamin I can site tons of vets who have suffered without care at the VA. If you are so interested why not read whistleblowers articles. There are hundreds of them. Or maybe look up VA scandals. Or you could just look at fraud investigations within the VA etc.

  8. You have printed an inflammatory story without supporting evidence. Your duty now is to print the supporting evidence.

    1. Alan, you apparently do not understand what “inflammatory” means much less “supporting evidence”. Did you not read the VA OIG report regarding flimsy local policies at many VA facilities? One veteran was flagged due to filing a legal complaint. Another was flagged due to comments on social media.

      The VA letter I linked to in the article is from the veteran whose rights were violated ie supporting evidence. I also posted his own email to me wherein he indicates what he stated to VA employees and their response to him, ie supporting evidence. His wife’s comments below further supporting evidence for the story.

      Instead, what is inflammatory is the misrepresentation by VA officials of statements made by veterans in the course of complaining about inadequate and incompetent VA services. VA is mired in scandal after scandal that evidences institutional negligence to the extent that Rep. Jeff Miller called your employer the most scandalous agency in US history…

      The bigger issue is that you fail to appreciate that I am an investigative reporter. I investigate the news and report what I find. I also, based on my own expertise and research, synthesize situational facts based on confirmations from eye witnesses, and a variety of other sources. That is what a reporter does. You do not need to agree with what I found, but that is okay.

      Beyond this, as an investigative reporter sourcing confidential sources, I can opt to reveal as much as needed to support the Further stories of these abuses will be forthcoming – I assure you.

      1. JMS, you did not answer the question, but instead shifted the focus. I assume you have no evidence or even hearsay – perhaps all you have is conjecture or some classic anecdotal stories from a few VA employees? Just note that when it comes to administrative hearings, hearsay is allowed in many instance including VA adjudications. Only in a court of law is hearsay usually inadmissible.

        As a point of fact though, I am not relying on hearsay. How is the weather in St. Petersburg?

    2. Alan, Here is the funny part and please don’t think this is being disrespectful. After months of trying to go through the patent advocates office, we finally learned that the patient advocate is not an advocate for the patient at all but they are actually an advocate for the director and provide protection for the VA system as a whole. As you and Mr. Rodriguez, patient advocate at Bay Pines, have communicated regarding this article today; I realize you are a patient advocate and you need to protect your employer, the VA, but I hope you don’t forget there are lots of good soldiers out there. Good luck and God bless.

    3. Alan We who served in the military are used and abused by the VA. I’m not sure why you disagree with this article. But I can site several horror stories I saw myself while taking my veteran brother to appointments at the VA.

      1. Again, where do veterans go for help with a bad employee. We veterans have to wait for another employee to speak up for us. Not going to happen. Lets see how many employees kill another employee for turning them in.

        Wish we had someway to listen to what the VA employees are doing and thinking. The only way employees are going to get the message is to see hundreds of Bad employees fired or put in jail. and they see with their own eyes that this is real !

        Lets see how many employees try and pull a Diana Rubin’s or Graves move ! I plead the 5th and think they are safe. They cant touch this attitude. I am still waiting to see who is laughing last as Rubin’s stated to her employees.

  9. One thing veterans can do about bad doctors is to rate them on the Healthgrades and Vitals web sites ( ). I rate the good ones and the bad ones .. the problem is that too few people ever check out who is treating them, let alone rate their experience. If every vet rated the doctor they saw, I bet the results would be shocking!

    1. No doctor that is employed by the VA is found on Healthgrades or Vital web sites. Ever. Anywhere. I don’t think the sites accept. VA doctors are not graded on any doctor websites at all. I tried millions of them for hundreds of doctors working at the VA. I did see a dentist’s name on a website once with no information at all about her except the address of the VA hospital she was assocoated with. That’s it. No other information at all about her. Completely useless.

      1. blizzard – everyone of my VA doctors is on vitals and healthgrades. Did you even bother typing in their name in the search bar? For example try Hittman, Mark – Lancelotti, Guy – Taylor, Thomas H. – and I could go on and on. Maybe you don’t know how to use a computer and then it would be useless to you. Go ahead give me a name I can verify with a VA role and show me they are not on those sites. Just your statement you tried millions of them shows the veracity of your accusation. If they are licensed, they are on the site.

  10. Dan, God help us if you are ever in a position of authority! You have no idea what some vets have gone through, the complete apathy and indifference of VA personnel and doctors and yet you will make this blanket statement that the “Vet deserved to be arrested”. Bullshit, your either a moron or a shill for the gov’t. I can give you bucket loads of examples of the evil perpetrated on vets but with people like yourself it does no good. You have blinders on and could care less. Obviously you are full of yourself and no vet would post like you did. Go pound sand. Anyone who has been in the system for an extended period of time knows the VA has set up a system to benefit those who run it, to put cash and bonuses in the pockets of bureaucrats and politicians. This article only scratches the surface the wickedness of the VA goes much deeper and I would say it even plumbs the depths of hell. So go peddle your gruel somewhere else Dan O.

  11. I have been used the VA hospital at Northport, NY as my primary care facility for over 10 years and have had nothing but excellent care. You have to hear some vets walk in without an appointment screaming to see a doctor and get some drugs. I saw one get arrested and he deserved it. No wonder they get flagged.

    1. The issue is not the veterans who actually threaten VA employees. This issue is senior VA employees abusing their discretion to silence veterans who file complaints against VA doctors for failing to treat them.

    2. Apparently, you are one of the lucky few, Dan. I am the wife of the person this article was in reference to and I can tell you, I have been on the phone with him and the VA and in person with him at the VA. They are appalling to say the least. The care or lack of that he receives, lost paperwork, extremely delayed wait times, errors on the part of the this VA, disgusts me. I attended such meeting with the top person at the VA with my husband and Ms. Klinker’s attitude was smug, careless, and lacking respect. She has done nothing for him except abuse her power. They have told him to come in as a walk-in over half a dozen occasions and he sat there for hours until the clinic was closed and never seen. What a joke! My husband was recently discharged and a combat vet. He does not take drugs or drink. He is college educated with a medical degree. Maybe that is part of the problem; he is well aware of what should be done pertaining to his care but it does not get done! There are a few good people there such as his primary care doctor but unfortunately there are some systemic problems with management and them trying to make quotas. This in turn makes the VA in Florida an unsafe medical facility for someone with problems other than the common cold. Until you have actually witnessed how some of these vets are treated, such as my husband, save your judgment, mister!

      1. Beautifully said! I find it incredible that ANY Veteran especially those lucky to be treated fairly can doubt anything we 99%er denied justice under the laws of the DVA–especially in light of the DVA-Scandal can stand against US. Shame on them … their day will come … it only takes one bad VA employee to destroy their fallacy of justice …

    1. John, this case only applies to the facts as presented in this case where the veteran said he would “kick the ass of the receptionist, the doctor” etc.

      VA mistakenly believes it can broadly apply its standard to all veterans in instances where the complaint the veteran files is misconstrued as “disruptive”. The statement must be a “true threat”. However, a veteran can advocate violence wherein the statement is protected speech in certain instances.

      Though, I would caution against such a statement and advocacy of violence generally, FYI. Violence is never the answer in my opinion. Here, legal recourse is the best solution as is praying for VA leadership to wake up.

      1. I think the really large 800 pound gorilla of a problem is these backdoor and underhand policies are entirely reliant on WHOSE interpretation of “disruptive behavior” are when by what I have read, this would even mean any Veteran that contacted (or tried to) the Patient Advocate, could also be indeed ‘flagged’.

        Meanwhile, we Veterans have to continue putting our literal lives on the line with absurdly inefficient and often substandard medical services and those with anxiety, depression, PTSD, et al, have medical/mental issues aggravated by this very inefficient and sometimes threatening environment.

        This may seem a bit crazy, but the very reason I made decision to never use/register with Facebook or other typical ‘social media’ is I actually have a buddy whom over a year ago was told by a VA Psychiatrist that there’s no way he has adverse social interactions or problems with PTSD because she claimed if he could use Facebook, he had no PTSD issues, thus she in-fact denied recommendation for Service-Connection. Yeah, sounds crazy, but that’s what you get when the Veteran Health Svcs. and the VA as a whole is NOT standardized across the board. You get bad Dr.’s continuing to be allowed to make BAD decisions.

        I may be paranoid a bit, but I fought long and hard enough for my Svc. Connected Disability Comp. and am not going to give the VA the avenue of Facebook to turn around and try to tell me I now magically do not have PTSD nor anxiety because I use social media. I do not use my real name here for the same damn reason!

      2. Where else can a federal agency. Acuse and punish it’s citizens. !

        Dictatorship country’s and they fall. !

        This committee is illegal and has no place in judging it’s veterans and do so without having to provide any tangable evidence. !

        Threatening veterans with arrest and banishment from all VA care when they have no proof. !

        Letting the very employees who make the false allegations answer any and all inquires from senator’s office. DAV ect. !

        Someone with s legal background would be able to take them to our legal system and veterans would be safer. !

        All civil. Constitutional rights are being trampled upon. !

        Disband this illegal committee. How many veterans must be harmed before someone stands up for the veterans rights. !

      3. When someone, anyone becomes disruptive such as this veteran and the VA provided Evidence then the right thing was done and the veteran had his day in court.

        I believe that is the way it should be, When a veterans is disruptive the veteran should be reported to the local police and not the disruptive committee.

        In cases like mine where the employee accused me of wanting to murder VA employees at my local clinic and did so with out having documented one intense of disruptive behavior ever.

        The employee stated that I would come into the clinic at least twice a month and become disruptive, getting loud and abusive, I was never told how many months I was to have done this.

        The employee did not make any reports, did not state who witnessed the disruptive behavior. No evidence was ever given in any manner except Hearsay !

        This Guy did what he did in front of a lot of people and it was reported properly and no one has the right to curse at anyone, anywhere. Now the VA had and provided real evidence. If they did not record the incident and just said it happened, this guy would have walked, as the courts would have more than likely would have said without proof, only hearsay was used and case closed.

        You hear it all the time, your honor that is hearsay and should not be considered as evidence.

  12. Such actions first to send police to the veteran’s home and then destroy evidence should be reported by an attorney to law enforcement. Cannot local law enforcement process the complaint since the VA police violated the law at the veteran’s home, not on federal property?

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