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Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Deafening Silence of Congressman Miller and General Shinseki

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

Senate Letter 2009-05-19[1][1][1] -

That's a letter dated May 15th, 2009 from Congressman Brad Miller to the head of the Veteran's Administration General Eric Shinseki. The letter was written on behalf of Dr. Anna Chacko, then head of radiology at the Pittsburgh VA. At the time, the Pittsburgh VA was in the final stages of removing Dr. Chacko. Congressman Miller wrote the letter to urge the head of the VA to stop the process because Miller felt the action being taken was done in retaliation for her blowing the whistle on corruption. In fact, three weeks later, Shinseki intervened and Chacko was reinstated.

The VA has apparently developed a well-honed and scripted method of dealing with whistleblowers — humiliation, isolation, character and professional assassination,

That's from a memo the same Dr. Anna Chacko published recently in reference to the Pittsburgh VA. This memo was recently featured in a Pittsburgh Tribune story. Dr. Chacko has since been terminated from the Pittsburgh VA as of March. The accusations that Dr. Chacko is now making about the Pittsburgh VA mirror those she made last year when she was able to get Congressman Miller and General Shinseki to champion her cause and help keep her in her job.

The only difference is that both Miller and Shinseki are now standing on the sidelines refusing to intervene. The question is why. Dr. Chacko isn't saying anything different now than she was a year ago. The action of Miller and Shinseki was extraordinary in May of 2009 and it was acknowleged as such in Miller's letter. Furthermore, Miller used his role as chair of the investigative arm of the Science and Technology Committee to investigate the same Pittsburgh VA about a destroyed strand of legionella in 2008. Now, the situation is even more critical for Dr. Chacko. She's been terminated. Her charges are exponentially more serious than the situation surrounding the strand of legionella. So, what's changed?

Are Miller and Shinseki no longer of the opinion that Chacko's removal was done simply as retaliation for whistle blowing? Their lack of action in her support certainly indicates that's their opinion. Yet, they've said nothing publicly about the matter. The story in which Chacko's accusations were published was featured on the first page of the Metro section of the Pittsburgh Tribune. They went unchallenged as those she accused refused to comment. So, in the city of Pittsburgh, the perception is that a corrupt administrative removed a doctor trying to expose corruption.

If that's the case, Miller and Shinseki have a duty to investigate these claims. After all, neither had any trouble intervening a year ago. Of course, if they no longer believe, they similarly have a duty to speak out. Professional reputations are on the line. Both once championed Dr. Chacko's cause. If they now see that action as inaccurate it is their duty to explain themselves. So far, the investigative sub committee that Miller chairs hasn't announced any investigation even though he used their letter head to write the original letter.

The reasons for their silence and total distance from this story likely have to do with nothing more than cynical political calculations. This story has appeared only in the Pittsburgh Tribune. It hasn't appeared anywhere in Congressman Miller's home 13th district in North Carolina. In fact, the media there doesn't see the relevance of this story since the events took place in Pittsburgh. It certainly hasn't appeared in any D.C. area media. Neither responded for comment for this story.

If they no longer find Dr. Chacko credible, it would be politically embarrassing if not ending to come out and draw attention to their original mistake. So, it's much better to keep quiet and hope the story doesn't reach anywhere near them. That may explain their silence.


George H. Love, Jr. said...

Dr. Chacko's termination is a complicated matter, in that only the deciding officials know the real motive. The articulated reaon is merely a pretext. The working assumption is what we refer to as a mixed motive, that is reprisal /retaliation for (1)whistle blowing and (2) prior EEO activity. Silence is not deafening, it is appropriate for all parties concerned while the issues are investigated and subjected to discovery proceedings in the appropriate legal forum. It is interesting that the basis for much of your writing on Dr. Chacko is based on information that could only be given to you outside the scope of anyone's legal authority to share that information and thus be a violation of the privacy act, which would indicate that your source has no qualms about violating federal statues for thier own personal motives. Of course that only applies to those statements that are truthful. I do not believe that a lie is a violation of the privacy act. It is fitting and just that we have a legal system so that people are not tried in the press which often times makes conclusions on half truths, innuendos, false assumption and erroneous conclusions which are supplied by individuals with their own bias and motives as a means of character assasination. I believe that you have arrived at faulty conclusions relative to Dr. Chacko based on ojectionable hearsay. I look forward to the day that Dr. Chacko will prevail in the apprpriate legal forum and I will keep you advised. Sincerely, George H. Love, Jr

mike volpe said...

George, with all due respect, first, hearsay is a legal term not a journalistic one. It's absurd to apply a legal term to a piece of journalism.

In your view of the world, no one would ever say anything about anything since eeveything is complicated and no one ever knows anything for sure.

If that's the case, wouldn't the letter and General Shinseki's subsequent effort have been hasty. If they now don't know everything, they certainly didn't know everything then and that didn't stop them then from acting. You can't have it both ways.

You neither know my motives, my sources, and certainly not the motives of my sources, and yet, you speculate about all of it. Then, you turn around and accuse my of not following strict ethics. Again, you'd like to have it both ways.

Finally, why are you looking forward to the day that Dr. Chacko is vindicated? After all, aren't these issues "complicated"? How do you know she's right? Here you are again weighing in on one side while also saying it is perfectly appropriate for Shinseki and Miller to wait. If you want them to wait, then you too should simply wait and not weigh in.

It's interesting that while you demand total silence from me and my sources you have no problem weighing in with your opinion. So, if you are allowed to speak freely, why are you so against those in Chacko's cross hairs also speaking freely.

I stand by everything I have ever written about Chacko and she's weelcome to speak to me anytime.

mike volpe said...

The greatest Irony, George, is that everything I've ever said about Dr. Chacko vis a vis the Pitt VA has been verified by none other than Dr. Chacko herself in her memo.

Vijay Mehta M.D. said...

Hi Mike,

There is nothing deafening about the silence from Congressman Miller and Secretory Shinseki.

Your theory being that if Congressman supported her the first time he needs to do it every other time is simply not true.

Leaders may act one way based on the concerns and information provided to them at that time. All they did was to delay the termination to get a chance to make sure a whistle blower is not being crucified for speaking up.

How to you know that they have not done more work to know that now Pittsburgh VA has done more work and justified their termination.

I do not think our congressman or Secretory have a duty every time some blogger or a reporter wants their reaction to a development. Simply they have a lot of other issues to attend to.

I think neither you nor I have enough information available to us to make up our mind if the termination of Dr. Chacko was a retaliation or not. We do not know if the charges made by Dr. Chacko are correct or not.

The prime concern for the sake of veterans is that agency need to move fast and make sure that Veterans are provided with state of art and safe evaluation and treatment at the Pittsburgh VA.

Just because the Congressman or Secretory has not made a public statement on the issue does not equal to a deafening Silence.

I agree with George Love that if privacy of Dr Chacko has been violated that is a serious offense. I do not know if those providing the information to a blogger are protected by secrecy of the source.

I have a feeling that lot more news will come out as time goes by so let us not pronounce anyone guilty before all the facts come out.

~Vijay Mehta

mike volpe said...

First of all, Congressman Miller is really busy since I've been trying to get comment from him and General Shinseki since last August. So, wow. I didn't expect a call right away but maybe sometime in the next eight months.

Second, these are the same charges that Dr. Chacko made and Congressman Miller echoed in his letter last year, so, yes, he should be defending her if he still believes her.

She's making claims in the Pittsburgh Tribune that she was fired for being a whistle blower. It's imperative that those that supported her last time explain themselves.

Congressman Miller has no jurisdiction to make hiring decisions at the Pittsburgh VA. Yet, he wrote said letter anyway. No one forced him to, and now he has the responsibility of following through. General Shinseki has no business micromanaging the head of radiology at the Pittsburgh VA, and yet, he did. Now, he has a responsibility. These are people in power and their actions have consequences and now it's time they lived up to those consequences.

Again, you don't know my motives, my sources, and certainly not the motives of my sources, so you are simply speculating.

Dr. Mary Johnson said...

Gentlemen, the silence IS actually deafening to those of us who live in NORTH CAROLINA and actually ARE medical whistleblowers/public servants egregiously wronged AND have been IGNORED by Congressman Miller and his deep-blue, snobbish ilk FOR YEARS.

Yet Miller will jump several state lines in order to service Dr. Chacko . . . whose case for whistle-blowing is circumstantial at best . . . but whose cause serves his political agenda.

Leaders in this state do NOT act. Leaders in this state wink and nod at criminals - if money and/or big names are involved. Leaders in this state have been DEAF, DUMB and BLIND while their "ordinary" constituents PLEADED for their help.

North Carolina ranks #5 on a list of the most corrupt states in this nation published just this week.

The only reason it doesnt' rank #1 is because our legal system is crap and our Attorney General is useless.

Dr. Chacko has representatives in PA. She needs to be talking to them.

Brad Miller needs to look homeward.

And good Lord, PLEASE don't talk to me about "privacy" after so many people have hidden behind it in my case to hide their own despicable deeds - deeds that happened on the public's dime and did not serve the public's welfare.

Anonymous said...

Chacko is washed up and has no one to support her now. She is hoping to make some money as a whistleblower but probably has little chance of success since she has always been the corrupt one. The Congressman and General would do all of us a great service now to explain why Chacko is not (or no longer) credible. If these men were "duped" they could partially regain their honor by explaining why they were duped and how they will be more careful next time. It's not a sin to make an honest mistake, particularly if you learn from it.

Anonymous said...

Chacko is a full-feldged lunatic who should never hold a leadership position again. I know her, have done business with places she has ravaged and can tell you Mike Volpe not only speaks the truth but is 100% accurate in his assessment of her character. She should take her military pension, sell her 15,000 square foot house in Montana and take care of herself rather than to continue to drag the good name of the VA through the gutter.

Anonymous said...

Now that Chacko is gone, you can investigate Kumar, Visn 12 head of imaging. He fits the Chacko model of management, Psychopath nut who intimidates, fabricates and lies to achieve his end. He has help though from Murawsky and friends who have suppressed investigations of his poor management resulting in waste, fraud and abuse. One IG report did finally make it out and report that gross medical care at the Milwaukee Va resulted in a patient's death who was never informed of a gross medical errors performed commencing with a major medical error by a radiologist- I wonder who that was.