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Thursday, October 1, 2009

Questions for Congressman Brad Miller and General Eric Shinseki: A Thought Experiment

UPDATE: Please also check out my new book, The Definitive Dossier on PTSD in Whistleblowers, for only $3.99, in which I dedicate chapter four entirely to the exploits of Dr. Anna Chacko. 

Introduction: This is the latest installment in my series about Dr. Anna Chacko. Dr. Chacko is currently the head of radiology at the Pittsburgh VA. She's been at the Pittsburgh VA since October of 2008. Almost immediately, according to sources I spoke to in a position to know, staff at the VA hospital began complaining about her behavior. They described her as tyrannical, a liar, an incompetent, she refused to do required clinical work, she divided the radiology department, and she created an environment of fear. Let me be clear. This is not me saying it, but rather this is her colleagues saying it. In March of 2009, an "investigative board" was formed. This is a mechanism which the VA system uses to discipline doctors and staff. In April of 2009, the investigative board recommended that Dr. Chacko be removed. Dr. Chacko challenged the results. She then reached out to Democratic Congressman Brad Miller of North Carolina. Congressman Miller had investigated the same Pittsburgh VA on a different matter two years prior. In that investigation, Miller investigated the destruction of a rare strand of legionella. On May 15, Congressman Miller wrote a letter to General Shinseki, the head of the VA, in support of Dr. Chacko. Within two to three weeks of that later, sources tell me that word came down from Shinseki or his office and Dr. Chacko was reinstated. Following a management class, Dr. Chacko came back to work on August 1st of this year. According to my sources, things have gotten even worse since then.

Prior to working at the Pittsburgh VA, Dr. Chacko worked at St. James Hospital in Butte, Mt. She spent fourteen months there. Her time there included four lawsuits. The radiology department was seven figures in the black prior to her arrival, and was deep in the red upon her departure. The CEO of the hospital, James Kiser, most responsible for hiring her left six months into her tenure citing a need for "a change of leadership". When she left, she took the other three radiologists she brought in with her.

Beyond this, I have spoken with former colleagues of Dr. Chacko from places like Boston, Pittsburgh, Chicago, Seattle, Butte, and New Mexico and they have described a pattern of behavior that has lead me to conclude that Dr. Chacko is in fact a Psychopath. Many suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Others have spent hundreds of thousands in legal bills defending themselves against suits filed by Dr. Chacko. Most if not all remain scarred from the experience of working for and with her even years later. Also, Dr. Chacko's main defender at the Pittsburgh VA is Dr. Bob Shah. Dr. Chacko and Dr. Shah have worked together since the 1990's. The've worked together in Texas, Boston, Butte, and in the Pittsburgh VA. (Dr. Chacko spent two decades in the military earning the rank of Colonel) They are both in the 60's and yet over the last three years they've worked together at the Boston University Medical Center in Boston, St. James Hospital in Butte, Mt. and at the Pittsburgh VA. Finally, sources from Lahey Clinic, where Dr. Chacko worked for nearly six years and the Pittsburgh VA tell me that Dr. Chacko is very good friends with Lt. General James Peake, the head of the VA previous to General Shinseki. The same sources tell me that their relationship goes back nearly two decades

I have on numerous occasions reached out to both Congressman Brad Miller and General Shinseki by both email and phone and neither has responded to repeated requests. My sources at the Pittsburgh VA tell me that General Shinseki is aware of the series and is "unhappy" that his name is constantly mentioned. I don't know if Congressman Miller is aware of my articles though I have forwarded several asking for comment. So, since neither is willing to speak to me YET, I will do a thought experiment and here are the questions that I would ask each if I could get them or their staff on the phone. Some questions I would ask of both and I will indicate as such for those.

General Shinseki:

1) My sources tell me that Dr. Chacko was reinstated upon your orders or at least orders of your office. Is this correct or am I wrong? If I'm wrong, why have you allowed for article after article to smear you without correcting the record?

2) Is it appropriate for the head of the VA system to override the Pittsburgh VA in hiring matters at the Pittsburgh VA? The Pittsburgh VA was ready to remove Dr. Chacko until you stepped in. Do you make a habit of micromanaging the hiring decisions of individual VA hospitals? Do you think such a leadership style is effective?

3)(this question goes to both Miller and Shinseki) My sources tell me that at the "investigative board" six of the fourteen members of the radiology department testified against Dr. Chacko. Once she challenged the results, she was given access to the testimony. If in fact, I'm right and Dr. Chacko is a Psychopath, do you understand the position you have put all those that testified against her in? Do you understand the terror that the workplace is for all those that testified against her? Do you care? Are you doing anything to correct this?

4)By now most of the Pittsburgh VA hospital has read all my pieces. My statcounter can confirm that. Even if nothing I've said is accurate, isn't it true that the proverbial waters are poisoned there? How can Dr. Chacko effectively lead the radiology department when each and every person she leads has read a series of stories that depict her as a Psychopath? No matter what, wouldn't you agree that given that what I have written has been read by most of the hospital, Dr. Chacko can no longer work there?

5) Did you consult with General James Peake prior to deciding that Dr. Chacko should be kept in place? How much do you know about their relationship? Are they friends or is their relationship more complicated than that? If it's more complicated, were you at all suspect of what he told you?

6) Are you aware that Dr. Chacko has lived and worked in Boston, Butte, Mt. and Pittsburgh all in the last three years? Are you aware that Dr. Chacko moved to Butte from Boston and fourteen months later moved to the Pittsburgh VA? Given that five months into her tenure, the Pittsburgh VA wanted her removed, doesn't her work history lend credence to the Pittsburgh VA's decision to remove her? What criteria did you use to keep her in place?

7) Do you know how Dr. Chacko's military career ended? Did it end amicably or was she forcibly removed?

8) Are you at all concerned that Dr. Shah, her only defender at the Pittsburgh VA, has worked with her at the Brooke Army Medical Center in Texas, Lahey Clinic in Boston, the BU Medical Center in Boston, St. James Hospital in Butte, Mt. and the Pittsburgh VA? I believe their relationship is untoward. Did you examine this relationship at all before you decided to keep both of them in place?

9) Has Dr. Chacko approached you about having her company Moly99Montana being the supplier of technetium for the VA system? Given that she is an employee of the Pittsburgh VA would this be an appropriate relationship to have?

10) If I am right, and Dr. Chacko is a Psychopath, a person with no conscience, and you subverted the authority of the Pittsburgh VA and kept her in place, how can you justify continuing to head of the VA? If after a full investigation I am proven correct, would you agree to step down?

Congressman Brad Miller

1) In your letter to General Shinseki you called your action in writing the letter "unusual". Under what authority do you believe you can weigh in on the hiring and firing decisions of the Pittsburgh VA?

2) How does helping Dr. Chacko, a radiologist in the Pittsburgh VA, help the constituents of the 13th District of North Carolina? What do you tell a citizen of Raleigh, North Carolina if they ask you why you stepped in and weighed into a hiring decision at the Pittsburgh VA?

3) I used Google for five minutes and I discovered that Dr. Chacko was involved in four lawsuits in Butte, spent fourteen months there, and left with her entire team. How much research did you do about Dr. Chacko before concluding that it was "unfounded" that Dr. Chacko's leadership was affecting performance at the Pittsburgh VA?

4) Are you following my stories? Are you at all concerned that you stuck up for someone that should have been fired? Are you doing anything now to rectify the situation? Are you doing anything? Do you feel any responsibility for the nightmare of all those that testified against Dr. Chacko?

5)Did you speak to anyone at the Pittsburgh VA before deciding to write that letter? A source tells me that they called your office anonymously and spent a long time on the phone with an aide of yours and told them in detail about Dr. Chacko's disruptive behavior. Is this accurate? Your letter appeared one sided. Did you try and get the other side before writing the letter?

6) Are you aware of Kristi George's civil suit against Dr. Chacko? Ms. George was a former colleague of Dr. Chacko at St. James Hospital. She alleges that Dr. Chacko lied about her in an attempt to get her fired. That suit was wrapping up when you wrote the letter. Did you attempt to reach out to Ms. George before writing the letter? You assert that claims that department's performance had "begun to suffer under Chacko's leadership" were unfounded? Wouldn't Ms. George's claims along with the complaints of some in the Pittsburgh VA create a pattern of behavior of a doctor who's leadership is in doubt?

7) You also assert in your letter that there were issues of fairness in the removal of Dr. Chacko. My sources say the same thing but in fact that's procedural. Isn't the proper course to then convene another board and present evidence again in a fair way and not to simply give Dr. Chacko her job back? In other words, the problem wasn't the evidence against Dr. Chacko but rather the way in which it was presented. Wouldn't the right course be to allow the Pittsburgh VA to present the evidence again and consider her removal? My sources tell me the Pittsburgh VA was prepared to do this when word came down from Shinseki's office to keep Dr. Chacko in place.

8) You headed an investigation about a destroyed strand of legionella from the same Pittsburgh VA. You found several of the administration, Dr. Mona Melham, Dr. Jain included, at fault. Most are still with the VA. If in fact I am right and Dr. Chacko is a Psychopath, can't you now see that she would know this and use it to her advantage to "play you"? In other words, isn't it possible that Dr. Chacko seeked you out knowing that if she told you that the same doctors that you found at fault were targeting her that you would be sympathetic to such a story? Doesn't it give you pause that it's possible that you allowed a Psychopath to play you? If that's not accurate, how did it come about that you stepped into this situation?

9) If after a full investigation I am proven correct and Dr. Chacko is a Psychopath and you subverted the system to keep her in her place, is it really appropriate for you to still remain a public servant?

Epilogue:

Here's the definitive dossier on Dr. Chacko.


12 comments:

Anonymous said...

Stay calm, Mike, the wheels of justice move slowly but inexorably. Good piece of writing.

Anonymous said...

I wouldn't be surprised if--rather than just loyalty and friendship--Chacko has some dirt on people in high places. A 300K job in Pittsburgh may be a small price to pay for keeping marriages and careers in place. Are xrays and reports getting done? Aside from a toxic workplace that's all that matters simplistically.

Anonymous said...

This what great reporters do. They have the fortitude to engage in what's right. Those in a postion of "power" need to get out in front of this thing right away otherwise they risk being run over by the very train they refuse to even acknowledge exists. The Generals we're reading about here command no wars and serve no purpose other than pathetic self-aggrandizment much the way the subject of this story does. Restore our faith in what you have been commissioned to do and deal with this beyond a mere removal. Peel back the layers and dole out the punishements. Do it today, do it now.

Anonymous said...

I've been reading your blogs on Dr. Chacko when a co-worker brought this sight to my attention. Dr. Chacko is not the only party here. Dr. Mona Melhem wasn't exactly a girl scout when she ran the department either. She definitely has grand delusions but then again I am not a psychologist or a psychiatrist nor do I think you should infer that you have the ability to diagnose. Interesting title to your blog.
Agent Provocateur who put you up to investigate or incite this? Wouldn't put it past Mona or her minions. Pretty much a cat fight at VAPHS. Meow!!
Just watching from the halls...
Jet

Anonymous said...

Wonder if Jet is Chacko or a Chacko operative. Seems like an attempt to minimize or relativize Chacko's mishegas.

Anonymous said...

If you analyze Jet's post it looks like Chacko's ideas with some intervention by spell-check and perhaps someone who has a better though still incomplete mastery of English.

Anonymous said...

Mike,
As always, you have written an excellent article. You are right on in so many ways- Chacko tries to suck-up to those in power, or if she cannot for some reason, she tries to get 'dirt' on them. She has also bragged about her sexual prowess in the past, as you noted previously, and who knows what her relationship was with the individuals you mention. It never ceases to amaze me that some-one with such a checkered history could have lasted in a position of power for so long. For my money, this speaks either to the complete incompetence of those you mention, or the complete corruption.

Anonymous said...

No, it is not Dr. Chacko. In fact, I have never even exchanged pleasantries. But I do know that there are a lot of losers that are in that department. I see them almost every day. You really should be evenhanded and look into Mona, especially her sidekick "Renfield" the old dietitian. Now that pair, what a waste of government money. I could see Mona being behind this. She has destroyed many fine physicians reputations and work (Legionnaire's). Approved the buying of equipment nobody can use (didn't buy the software)and she does take care of her friend's down the hill (UPMC). Just wanted to get a different perspective here. If you are a journalist Mike, you should dig a little deeper. But then again, as an Agent Provocateur maybe you can't. Maybe my English needs some work but when I posted the last and as well as this message I had/have finished a long shift.

There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest. -- Elie Wiesel

Interesting, Jet...as in I am out of here.

mike volpe said...

Hey Jet. Welcome back. Personally, I could care less who you are. What I'd like to know is who was behind the four lawsuits and the fact that the radiology department went from seven figures in the black to the red at St. James? Was that also Mona Melham because she didn't work there?

Who was behind Dr. Chacko being dragged out of Lahey by two security guards screaming "Kiss my Big Indian Ass"? Was that also Mona Melham?

Trouble just seems to follow Dr. Chacko but it appears you think it's not her fault. Your argument would hold up better if I didn't already prove that this happens wherever DR. Chacko is at. Dr. Melham seems to have been at this VA for a while. Dr. Chacko has had the same history?

What exactly are you saying? Frankly in a way, I agree with you. Dr. Chacko doesn't pick good clean hospitals. Her menace would never fly there. It would only fly in a place where there's already problems. So, you may be right about that. She's still the center of the problems though.

Anonymous said...

A.P. Regarding the St. James allegations, your blog is the only information that I have read. Until I discover reliable information I will keep an open mind. Even my own opinion is based on information that I get with co-workers over a cup of joe and my day to day dealing's with the staff. Also working in the health care environment for over 25 years you cannot be thin skinned. Many a times I have dealt with physicians who were monsters. But boy they knew their medicine. No excuse, just the truth. Joint Commission is starting to address this issue of physician bullying, "Problem Providers". But at VAPHS some of Chacko's detractors were Mona's minions. Physicians and tech's who literally stole their paycheck's. Came in when they felt like it. Chacko shook them up and if you are correct, handled it incorrectly, but they were working. Just wanted to state a different perspective and keep the dialogue open. We will just have to wait and see.
Jet

mike volpe said...

First of all, everyone gets by now that you are stating a different perspective. You don't need to keep repeating it, that's just annoying. Second of all, it isn't just me. The Butte newspapers reported on the suits and on her leaving fourteen months after she arrived. That was in those papers. I don't who was a "Melham minions" but it was no one I spoke with. The problem you have is that what has been asserted at the Pittsburgh VA has been asserted by many others at hospitals all around the country. It's just that simple. If this were only happening at the Pittsburgh VA, you might have a case but it has happened everywhere and so your entire line is nonsense. Everyone gets that. I welcome you back all you want but if you think you're convincing anyone by constantly saying that this was all orchestrated by someone else when this happens everywhere that is not an argument that will get many supporters.

Anonymous said...

Specially coming from someone facing sexual harrasement charges that have not been settled yet. Jet, we all know who you are. I guess she can't help you now!! Do you really want to follow her across the country like the other?
Keep at it and you will.