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In a federal lawsuit, a former Marine who once scheduled radiology appointments at a Veterans Affairs office in Los Angeles says he lost his job because of his complaints about the purging of backlogged orders for imaging tests.

The amended lawsuit was filed last week in U.S. District Court in California, according to the Coalition for Change, a nonprofit organization created to combat racial discrimination in federal government agencies. The organization announced the action in a news release.

The story involves Oliver Mitchell, a Marine Corps veteran who worked as a scheduling clerk at the VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System. According to a February story in the Washington Examiner, Mitchell was told in November 2008 to purge backlogged appointment orders for imaging tests. The Examiner said that about 40,000 orders eventually were “administratively closed” in Los Angeles and another 13,000 in Dallas.

Mitchell said a supervisor told him of pressure to get up to date on imaging orders, according to the Examiner:

In order to show favorable results, we needed to delete as many orders as possible. He went on to say that it was all a numbers game, and we had to play the system. He then directed me to begin deleting all orders pertaining to MRI [at] the clinic in which I work. I refused.

The lawsuit news release says that after Mitchell refused to delete the orders and filed complaints about the deletions with the VA inspector general and the U.S. Office of Special Counsel, he suffered reprisals.

“Mitchell expressly alleges his work station was moved to a storage closet, he was placed on endless reassignments, denied job training, subjected to forced mental health evaluations, wrongfully placed on absence without leave (AWOL), threatened with gun violence, and threatened with force by the VA Police,” the news release says.

Mitchell details his allegations at length in a blog called A Veterans Whistleblower Story.

When the VA inspector general looked into the case, the Examiner reported, hospital officials said they deleted MRI orders, some going back 10 years, that they determined were no longer necessary because the patient had died or received treatment elsewhere. “All patient imaging requests that were found to still be valid were scheduled,” the officials told the inspector general.

The inspector general then dropped the case, and the Office of Special Counsel didn’t pursue it because the inspector general had already investigated, the Examiner said.

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