Episodes

#6 – Dear Oakland VA Regional Office

By Jamie Fox  #protectveteranprivacy @veteranprivacy

Dear Oakland VA Regional Office,

I want to personally thank each and every former manager and co-worker, who not only invaded my privacy, but abused their public positions to further hurt me. You absolutely know what you did to me was wrong and unethical. For some of you it wasn’t enough that I lost my case against you for retaliating against me for reporting harassment of a co-worker. In 2013 I had cut my losses and moved on, but it appears none of you did. Instead you used your public positions to add insult to injury. I was very disappointed to learn that some of you, who I thought were good and ethical people, would take such unethical measures against me. There is no justification for what you did. I know many of you think you are well insulated from the consequences of your actions, but thankfully to our founding fathers, the First Amendment gives me the right to warn the public and expose your malfeasance and heartless hypocrisy.

My journey started when I witnessed a co-worker being harassed and I wrongly thought there were protocols in place to protect her. At the time I had no idea how much of a cruel and cowardly bunch worked at the Oakland VA regional office. I had no idea some of you would use your public positions to seek revenge against me – all because I tried to protect another co-worker from getting harassed. I know some of you wrongly think management forced me to resign because they said I allegedly failed to follow instructions when I did not send Mr. Roundtree’s denial letter. Well, I am here to set the record straight, I did follow instructions – I followed the instructions of my trainers, coaches and supervisors every step of the way. For most of my life I was a very good order follower, which is demonstrated by my many years of work and college evaluations.

While I was employed at the Oakland VA regional office, 100% of my work was reviewed by a trainer, coach, or supervisor. So you tell me, if 100% of my work was reviewed, then how did one C-file escape review? It didn’t. Nothing I had done on that case at the time had flagged anyone. So what changed several months later? It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that I was retaliated against for coming forward as a witness.

Yes, I can hear some of you saying, then why did I lose my EEOC claim for retaliation? It is difficult to win a case when there is no one forcing the VA to provide discovery. The whole EEOC system is a kangaroo court. EEOC is not there to enforce the law; rather it is there to protect the federal government.

Awe, I can hear some of you whining that I am just bitter because I lost. You are right. I am bitter because I witnessed firsthand how much the deck was stacked against the average person. I was once like you, I had faith in the integrity of our judicial system and was blind to government corruption.

There is sworn testimony of the administrative judge scolding me during my hearing for not motioning to compel discovery or motioning for sanctions. However, when I told her I sent multiple motions to compel and multiple motions to sanction to her, but never received any response from her, she went silent. My case was also placed on hold for 6 months because the judge assigned to my case, said she was too busy and didn’t have time to work on my case. Where is the justice in that?

No one can win in court if a judge doesn’t even use the law to force the VA to give discovery. When the VA did give me something they just copied material out of the EEOC investigation book, which was something I already had. I received multiple copies of the same discovery. Regional counsel also mailed discovery to the wrong address; a common tactic the VA uses. I have spoken to other people who said the VA mailed discovery to the wrong address and it took months to clear up the buffoon move. There were a few new documents I received in discovery, but it wasn’t enough for me to win my case, only to prove I did not have poor performance. While VA regional counsel misled witnesses with their story prior to the hearing, they prevented me from contacting my witnesses prior to the hearing; something that was my legal right to do.

A key piece of evidence the VA refused to give me was an email sent to me by William Vallejos, who was one of my trainers at the time. Because, I didn’t want what was happening to me, to happen to some of you, I gave certain people leeway to make that decision to come forward on their own. I was very shocked to hear some of your testimony. Many of you thought nothing about throwing me under the bus in order to protect yourselves. I guess the laugh is on me because I dared to care enough about you without it being reciprocated. But that naivety has all changed now, since learning about what some of you have done to me by trespassing through my veteran’s C-file.

Of all the people who I consulted regarding the Roundtree file, Angel Cuevas was the only person who remembered that I came to him about the file. I really appreciated his honesty, but was very disappointed later to find out he was one of the people responsible for committing malfeasance on my C-file. Angel, if you claim you did not know it was my C-file then you are admitting that you did not actually review the work Robert Hill did. So you either admit that you knew it was my C-file or you admit you do not actually verify the work Robert Hill did was accurate.

Angel, I will have you know that you authorized a bogus claim. Not only did Robert Hill make a bogus claim in my name but he also tried to cut my benefits and claimed I owed the VA money. And I am not just referring to the star review. You both are guilty of creating a false claim in my name. None of the evidence you supported in the letter actually even supports the claim. You used evidence from another claim to support the bogus claim. And now my only recourse is to appeal a bogus claim. Robert did this to actually avoid having to do what was needed on the case. In 2008 I had claimed that my original claim was lost in the early 1990s and have been requesting the VA to look into it for almost 10 years. Instead Robert took that 9 year old case and created into a claim I never made. None of the evidence he used supports the bogus claim he made.

[Photo above: Robert Hill]

RELATED:  Robert Hill Oakland VA Regional Office Rater

The same goes for Robert Hill. You either admit you do not actually read the claims you work on or you admit that you committed a privacy violation. You all know that it was a conflict of interest to be working on my claim file. I do not know what I ever did to you Robert Hill to deserve what you did to me. You know who I am, you helped me with family genealogy and we were connected for a time via social media.

The same goes for Sidney Byrd, who was the former local AFGE president, and was supposedly helping me for a time during the lawsuit.

Please help me to understand, why you all accessed and/or worked on my C-file when you knew it was a conflict of interest?  Why didn’t any of you speak up and say you cannot work on my C-file because it is a conflict of interest? And if you were forced to, then why didn’t you report the manager who was forcing you to work on my C-file?

 

[Photo Above: Rachel Pennington, Assistant Veterans Service Center Managerat Oakland VA regional office]

The irony of it all is that Kimberly Yarbrough and Rachel Pennington were first trying to terminate me based on a conflict of interest, because they thought I knew Mr. Roundtree. And as you all know, you are not allowed to work on a C-file of someone you know. You can’t even work on a friend or relative’s C-file of someone you know. Kim and Rachel then tried to concoct a plan to terminate me based on a false privacy violation, and only abandoned the idea when they realized their plan could not hold up in court. They then concocted a story that could not be disproved because it was based on verbal commands given to me by my superiors.

At first Kimberly Yarbrough claimed I held on to Mr. Roundtree’s C-file for months and ultimately sent it to the file storage unit in San Bruno with open pending charges. The only reason I was able to disprove that accusation is because I had printed a copy of the COVERS log, which showed that what they accused me of was false. I also would have been able to prove that William Vallejos was the person who emailed me the fax cover sheet and instructed me on how to use the fax, if the VA would have given me that document in discovery.

[Photo above: Dennis Uldricks, Coach at Oakland VA Regional Office]

RELATED: Dennis Uldricks Oakland VA Regional Office Manager “Coach”

Dennis Uldricks also lied under sworn testimony, when he said he did not remember the two different times I went to him for help on the Roundtree C-file. At the end of the day (around 5 pm), when there were no other trainers or supervisors around, I walked over to his office and asked him what I should do with Roundtree’s C-file, since I was going to be gone for training for 3 weeks. He asked me to leave it on my desk, so he could have someone come and pick it up, because he was worried it would get lost in his office. Anyone working during that time knows what a mess his office was. The irony of that statement today is that we know how many files really did get lost in his office. And he hasn’t even been held accountable for those lost files. When I got back from training and found Roundtree’s file still at my desk 3 weeks later, I went back to Dennis Uldricks’ office to ask once again what to do with the file. He told me to take it to the expert in the building, a senior rater, named Sherb Carlson, which I did. I was very disappointed with Sherb Carlson, when he also testified that he did not remember that I had brought him the C-file, especially since we had spoken at length about it. Even more chilling is hearing Dan Muraoka, another trainer who helped me on Roundtree’s C-file, say he would not testify against Rachel Pennington because they were personal friends. It is very difficult to obtain justice when there is such blatant nepotism.

Still, I want to thank you, Dennis Uldricks for accessing my C-file, so I can expose the heartless hypocrite that you are. You also testified that if you found an error in a veteran’s C-file that you would still promulgate it. I am sure veterans everywhere feel more confident in the VA after hearing that from a coach. However, unlike one of your senior authorizers, such as Oscar Mendez, you did admit that you would take it back to the rater to make sure it was correct, but only after you promulgated it.

Dennis also testified that in his opinion Kimberly Yarbrough was an outstanding assistant coach. Hmmm, you mean to tell me you think someone who was caught lying and falsifying records is an outstanding employee? Can you believe they nominated her for federal employee of the year? Thankfully, she did not receive the award. But it just goes to show you that you cannot always believe people who receive awards are actually who they say they are; especially when managers use these awards to cover up wrongdoings. Now when you see who won federal employee of the year, you might just be seeing them in a different light.

Thank you Dennis Uldricks for telling some of your former employees, who you illegally terminated for a false AWOL charge, that there was no one who could stop you. I also heard from several different sources that you also like to pretend to be a doctor and determine whether or not a VA veteran employee needs to actually go see their real doctor. I wonder who you were pretending to be when you accessed my C-file? Were you pretending to by a spy or maybe the president?  You do know you had no authorization, no permission and no right to be in my private information. You know, I may never get to formally make you accountable for invading my privacy, but I will make sure everyone knows how unethical you are for unlawfully accessing my information and having your minions commit revenge against me.

Thank you Oscar Mendez for admitting under sworn testimony that if a trainee came to you because they thought there was an error in the C-file, which denied a veteran benefits, you would deny the veteran benefits rather than looking into it. Your exact words were, “Now, I’ve never, in my 24 years, questioned whether the rating specialist had done his job, because that’s not part of my job to question his job. The only time I would return it to a rating specialist, as I said, is if they missed the date of claim, they got the wrong date of claim, because in that case we’re cheating the veteran.”  I am sure many veterans are disheartened to hear your rationale, that you would rather have them wait years to get their claims corrected in appeals rather than do it on your watch.

Thank you Oscar Mendez for admitting that you authorized Roundtree’s denial after another VSR worked on his claim and neither one of you noticed the stack of documents that were loose in his C-file. I never put those stack of documents in Roundtree’s file, I did give them to Sherb Carlson, a senior rater, who never told me I had done anything wrong at the time. Oscar, during your sworn testimony you said, you thumb through loose documents found in a C-file, in case action needed to be taken, but obviously at the time, when you were authorizing Roundtree’s denial letter, the stack of documents that I was later accused of putting in Roundtree’s C-file did not warrant you to notify anyone of the alleged misdeed. Yet, you changed your tune during the hearing and threw me under the bus. Two senior Veterans Service Representatives worked on Roundtree’s C-file after me and neither one of you thought any malfeasance had occurred, otherwise surely you both would have reported it, but you didn’t. Or maybe you are admitting that you do not actually read the claims you process. You testified you process about 4,000 claims per year, yet during the hearing you had trouble describing the layout of a claim and how you review a claim in Post-D.

Oscar your entire testimony stunk of how regional counsel prepared you before the hearing. What they told you about the documents they showed you was a lie. Since we were on the last day of the hearing there was no time to address many of the issues. I never prepared a memo or report in response to a rating decision. I had simply written a letter to whoever would be working on the veteran’s C-file after me, because I was going to be gone for 3 weeks. I had only been learning how to process C-files at that time for 3 weeks – for 3 weeks. You knew I was under training. It was ridiculous to testify like I had been working C-files for years and should have  known better. Yet everyone I ever went to about that C-file and everyone who worked on it after me never said anything to me about the actions I took. No one.

When regional counsel asked you, “…would you consider this to be, based on your experience, appropriate for a trainee to prepare a document like this?”

You stated, “No, I would not.”  Oscar you testified to support a fabrication. Many of you do not know the truth of the events. Instead you believed the lies management and regional counsel fed you. In future blogs I will report on the truth and set the record straight. For now, I just want to point out your heartless hypocrisy, especially when you and regional counsel tried to inject more lies during your testimony. Thank you Oscar, for testifying that you and Eden Marin, have been friends for 20 years, and that she told you that other rating specialists had told her that I had allegedly returned cases to them, and questioned their competence!?! Thank you for showing me how unethical you both are – that you are willing to make up stories for management. But maybe you didn’t make that part up Oscar, maybe Eden Marin is just lying to you. Regional counsel’s little dirty trick didn’t work, because it had nothing to do with my case (also per the statements from the judge). Regional counsel wanted all of you to believe their version of the story, but their version is the lie.

         

   [Photos above: Eden Marin, Oakland VA regional office rater]

In fact, I never knew I had done anything wrong until the day they gave me my termination letter. Kim and Rachel went on a fishing expedition to look for things to fire me on. They scoured every single C-file I had ever worked on and only found 1 file to can me with. No one ever asked me why I took the actions I did; no one. I would think a manager would want to know the facts and context around the events. I mean, usually a manager fires an employee after learning of a wrong doing or for poor performance that could not be improved, not the other way around. Additionally, none of my trainers or mentors were informed that Kim was planning to terminate me. None of them reported to her that I had done anything wrong. When I told them the day I received the termination letter they were all shocked. One would think that if anyone would have reported a wrong doing or poor performance it would have come from the people who were actually reviewing my work and authorizing my work. The AFGE union was also not informed and obviously since I was never informed, I did not get to exercise any of my rights through the union. The local AFGE president at the time, Terence O’Connell, and the local steward Leland Low at the time, both of who were supposed to look into the illegal firing, reported back to me that no union violation had occurred.  Really?

Come on guys. If you are going to be a union steward or a union president for that matter, I would think you would need to know what is in the contents of the union agreement. I didn’t find out until after the grace period that in fact there had been a union violation. But since I missed the 30 day time limit to file a grievance, I missed my one opportunity to have union lawyers represent my case. Thanks Terence and Leland for a whole lot of nothing. I later learned Leland Low is personal friends with some of the managers. No wonder I didn’t get any representation! More nepotism. Yeah for government nepotism!

[Photo above: Terence O’Connell, Oakland VA Regional Office Rater & former AFGE local president; did not have a clue about the contents of the Master Agreement despite being president for years]

In 2012 when I spoke with Terence, he was still clueless about what happened and denied there was ever any wrong doing, despite me telling him that I had a long discussion with AFGE union reps in Washington DC, who apologized on his behalf for the mistake he made with me and sent me a letter to prove to the court that the AFGE union agreement had indeed been violated.

I am writing about all of this because I want the public to know how much corruption there is in the VA. I hope that more people become aware of the VA’s illegal and unethical tactics. Since getting media coverage in 2012, people across the country have reached out to me. I listened to their stories and it’s all the same pattern. I am hoping that more people will contact me and share their stories in order to change VA culture of corruption.

I listened to a few stories of women who were once employed by the VA, but in their probationary time, had the unfortunate experience of being sexually harassed. They too, thought they were protected by law, if they came forward to get help to stop the harassment. However, once regional counsel got involved, the woman was investigated rather than the man’s misconduct. These women were terminated based on behavioral issues. This kind of termination is so general and so vague that these women were unable to fight it in court. It reminded me in a way of how the military tends to blame the victim and blocks recourse.

I hope with the #Metoo movement that some of these women, who used to work for the VA, will come forward and let the public know that the VA silences women who report sexual harassment. My information on this subject is only anecdotal and the VA may only target employees on probationary status. However, for some positions probationary status can last up to 3 years. That means for women who need to stop sexual harassment cannot if the VA refuses to investigate those claims and would rather terminate the woman for a behavioral problem. I hope an investigative journalist looks into those facts and figures in order to shed more light on the subject.

I also want to remind everyone that the EEOC manager at your VA facility is not your friend. They do not have your best interests at heart. They are there as a direct beeline to management. If you need to speak with an EEOC person those people work off site.

So, back to thanking the VA employees and managers at the Oakland VA regional office, who abused their public positions to invade my privacy and commit revenge against me. I know it is hard for some of you to do the right thing, but it is never too late to do the right thing. You know who the unethical people are. When you stop caring and only look out for yourself – that is the definition of a bad person. The only way the VA culture will change is when ethical people do the right thing instead of what is easy. Right now we have a presidency that is interested in cleaning house; don’t waste your opportunity to drain the swamp at the Oakland VA regional office. Contact the Office of Accountability and Whistleblower Protection (OAWP) to obtain VA Form 10177. You are not and cannot be required to submit the disclosure to or through supervisory channels. You can also remain anonymous. Use or submission of this form does not prevent or limit an employee from filing through one of the other avenues available under law including, but not limited to submitting directly to the VA’s Office of Inspector General, the Office of Special Counsel, or to Congress.

The purpose of this form is to provide employees with an optional method of submitting a disclosure to the Office of Accountability and Whistleblower Protection (OAWP). A disclosure is information provided by an employee that the employee reasonably believes shows:

  • A potential violation of any law, rule or regulation; or
  • Gross mismanagement; or
  • Gross waste of funds; or
  • Abuse of authority, or
  • Substantial and specific danger to public health or safety.

Gross mismanagement is action or inaction which creates substantial risk of significant adverse impact upon the agency’s ability to accomplish its mission.

Gross waste of funds is more than debatable expenditure that is significantly out of proportion to the benefit reasonably expected to accrue to the government.

Abuse of authority is the arbitrary (personal whim) or capricious (fickle, variable, unpredictable) exercise of power by a Federal official or employee that adversely affects the rights of any person or that results in personal gain or advantage to him-or-herself or to the preferred other person.

Retaliation for making protected disclosures is against the law. If you believe you are being, or have been, retaliated against for making a protected disclosure, you may submit a disclosure regarding the retaliation.

Lastly, this form is not restricted to current employees. Former employees, volunteers, and veterans can also use this form.

To learn more, as well as, to hear future podcasts, please go to www.heartlesshypocrisy.com

There you will find a link to sign a petition to help make our voices heard in congress.

Thank you

One thought on “#6 – Dear Oakland VA Regional Office

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *