WASHINGTON, August 13, 2017 – Tammy Mitchell, the Beckley VA Medical Center whistleblower, apparently has a powerful new ally in the White House.
“My husband, Mickey Mitchell, and I would like to come to Washington D.C. to meet with you or somebody else there to talk about what is going on at our VA hospital located in Beckley, WV.” Tammy Mitchell wrote to the White House on February 14, 2017. “There are veterans dying at this facility due to negligence and medical malpractice and after five long years nothing has been done.”
Mitchell has been a registered nurse for more than two decades. In 2012, while the Home Based Primary Care (HBPC)Director at the BVAMC, she blew the whistle on secret wait lists at the hospital.
She said she was retaliated against, including receiving numerous threatening phone calls and emails. The stress of the retaliation caused her to take a medical leave of absence in 2014 and she was terminated from the hospital while on medical leave in 2015.
Mitchell’s husband, Mickey Mitchell, is a Vietnam War veteran who has been treated at the Beckley VA for more than two decades. He recently filed a separate tortious suit against the hospital where he accused the hospital of failing to inform him of a kidney failure for approximately two decades. “After finding out I was in Stage 3 Kidney Failure I was devastated,” he claimed.
While Mitchell sent the White House the letter in February, there had been no response until recently.
“Apparently, your client contacted the White House via e-mail/letter—it is my understanding that this communication was then referred to the VA for response and follow-up, and Ms. Thorn only contacted Ms. Mitchell to offer to schedule a phone call with the Director,” an August 8, 2017, email from VA staff attorney Matthew Kelly to Mitchell’s attorney stated. That email was the first acknowledgment by the VA that the White House was formally investigating the allegations found in the letter.
According to Mitchell, she received several phone calls from the Beckley VA asking for a face to face meeting with the Medical Director, Stacy Vasquez. Ms. Vasquez has responded to Ms. Mitchell’s allegations and CDN’s coverage, stating
“Your most recent article cites several points with patient and human resource issues involved. The Department of Veterans Affairs cannot comment on these issues. However, we can confirm the White House forwarded a letter from the Mitchells to the facility. The reply to that letter is pending as our response is still in coordination as there are several ongoing processes involving Mrs. Mitchell and her husband. Providers at the Beckley VA Medical Center only contacted the Mitchell home to inquire about Mr. Mitchell’s health care. All legal queries are handled by our agency’s attorneys.
“Providers at the Beckley VA Medical Center only contacted the Mitchell home to inquire about Mr. Mitchell’s health care. All legal queries are handled by our agency’s attorneys.”
Mitchell has said that contacting her directly was inappropriate because all communications were supposed to be done through her counsel.
Eisenberg agreed and said this to Kelly: “Ms. Mitchell whistleblew to the White House. The Agency was aware that she is represented by counsel. The Agency contacted my client without my authorization.”
“It’s harassment,” Mitchell said of the repeated phone calls she received.
Since Mitchell agreed to her first media interview with CDN last month, several other whistleblowers have also stepped forward alleging such things as whistleblower retaliation, widespread billing errors, and systematically prescribing cheaper but poorer drugs to veterans.
Leron Alexandar was a former staffer at then-Congressman Nick Rahal’s office. Rahal lost re-election in 2014 but represented the district, which included the Beckley VA before that time.
Alexander previously told CDN that he fielded calls from more than twenty whistleblowers at the hospital while working in Congressman Rahal’s office.
Article Updated with quote from Ms. Vazquez of the Beckley VA on August 14, 2017 at 2:05 pm ET.