Today, Judicial Watch released documents showing that Veterans Affairs ordered the "mass purge" of MRI imaging orders from veterans dating back to 2009:
Judicial Watch announced today that in March 2014 it obtained internal Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) documents revealing that on November 25, 2009, the Office of Inspector General (OIG) was informed that top VA officials had ordered a nationwide purge of "all outstanding [MRI] imaging orders for studies older than 6 months." Seven days later, on December 2, 2009, the OIG closed its investigation without taking further action.
The documents obtained by Judicial Watch also detail repeated efforts by VA whistleblower Oliver Mitchell, a Marine veteran and former patient services assistant, to persuade the OIG to fully investigate the mass destruction of veterans' medical files and the cancellation of examination requests. The documents, dating back to 2009, reveal that OIG spent barely two months investigating the allegations before closing the case
Another document obtained by Judicial Watch in response to its February VA FOIA request included verbatim disclosures and accusations made by Mitchell, then a Patient Services Assistant in the VA's Radiology Section. The Mitchell memos, repeatedly urging the OIG to act, had not been previously released to the public:
- May 12, 2009: "From June 2008 to September 2008 the current interim chief stated, 'Our clinic had the worst performance numbers compared to other VA's nationwide'... she also stated 'management stated no MRI orders should be cancelled and/or deleted' ... Shortly thereafter, I noticed that requests for MRIs were being cancelled dating from the year 2000 to November 2008. I approached the current interim chief about this matter in which she responded 'management was all over her and she had to do something.'"
- March 24, 2009: "Since my employment within this department I have witnessed 'valid requests for MRI's' being cancelled and/or deleted from the system as a means of reducing the number of requests for MRI's pending. This has been ongoing since my employment here. It is my opinion that the harassment, death threats and threats of termination I have received are due to my vocal opposition to this practice."
- March 24, 2009: "In February 2009 I received via voicemail a complaint from the daughter of a Veteran who stated her father had come to the VA for care and the doctor had submitted a request for a MRI. The daughter expressed great sadness and anger in our process stating her father had suffered from a massive stroke while waiting for his MRI appointment. I informed Dr. [REDACTED] of the voicemail and her response was to give her the request and not speak of the matter, she stated, 'I already have enough tort claims as it is.' Shortly after this, I noticed that more request were being deleted from the system."
- May 12, 2009: "It is my opinion that this department has not been able to meet its mandated obligations with regards to performance. The administrative process is flawed and has resulted in deaths, continued pain and suffering and an overall decline in Veterans' health due to the lengthy wait for an MRI."
And, that's not all. One marine living in the Houston-area reported today that the VA mistakenly classified him as dead. Joe Morris said he was receiving VA disabilities checks until April of this year when they abruptly stopped and his parents were given a condolence notice from the government.
Veterans Affairs also contacted the Social Security Administration to inform them that Morris had passed away. Morris found out about this bureaucratic mistake when he and his wife were trying to purchase a home.