Several hundred of you have been following my problem with the Visiting Nurse Association (VNA), so let’s use it as a teaching moment. Follow the bouncing activist to learn how to effectively complain.
I wrote up the story of how the VNA wrongfully terminated me—and that’s all a complaint is. It’s a true story, written in chronological order, with the names of the people, and dates when they said or did things that you think are wrong. That’s a complaint. (See also https://annecwoodlen.wordpress.com/2012/08/12/ask-for-a-social-worker-get-a-nurse/ and https://annecwoodlen.wordpress.com/2012/08/13/part-ii-ask-for-a-social-worker-get-a-nurse/.)
Now the question was where to file it. Remember Patti, the CEO’s secretary, who said that the VNA was licensed by the NYS Dept. of Education (DOE)? I started there and checked the DOE web site, which didn’t have anything about licensing agencies but did have something about licensing nurses. Ah!
So I pulled up the complaint, “selected all,” hit Ctrl + c, and then had a fresh copy. Aren’t computers wonderful? I edited the complaint, deleting all the stuff that wasn’t about Amor Bango (we don’t want to overwhelm and confuse the investigators, now do we?) and then land-mailed it to the DOE in Albany.
Complaints can be faxed but I don’t know how to operate my fax machine. Sometimes complaints can be filed on-line but there usually isn’t enough room in the little box to tell your story. Besides, paper sitting on a desk demands attention in way that electronic squiggles in an in-box don’t.
At this point I got a message on Facebook from an old friend who told me to file the complaint with CMS—the federal Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services. That was a good idea but it gave me a better one: the NYS Office of the Medicaid Inspector General (OMIG). CMS, being federal, is going to have so many complaints that they’re not going to get to mine until I’m dead and buried. OMIG will get to it sooner and, besides, I have a history with OMIG.
Do you remember all that work I did on Medical Answering Services, LLC (MAS)? The end result of which was that MAS got fined $80,000 and forced to sign a Corporate Integrity Agreement? Use what you’ve got, baby, and I’ve got a history of credibility with OMIG, so I land-mail them a copy.
Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that the VNA was billing Medicaid for my nursing services. Always remember who pays. Follow the money. If you, my neighbors, are paying for my care through Medicaid then you really want to know if somebody’s screwing up. If Medicaid is paying for services that are not being properly provided then that needs to be reported, so I make another copy of the complaint and send it to the Onondaga County Dept. of Social Services Medicaid Fraud Unit. The local guys certainly should know about a local problem.
Then I lay in bed, resting for a while, and it comes to me: the NYS Commission on Quality of Care and Advocacy for Persons with Disabilities (CQC). I recently did some work for the Mohawk Moms—two women whose adult sons were locked in Mohawk Valley Psychiatric Center and they were being denied normal visitation rights. My work for the moms led me to the CQC director of investigations who—lo and behold—turned out to have been one of my contacts when he was at OMIG, and isn’t it a small world? So I send him a copy of the complaint.
Then I receive a note from an advocate who points out that Medicaid services to a beneficiary cannot be cut without written notice, and notice of the right to a fair hearing. Sheesh. I forgot all about that. Like I say, my mind isn’t what it used to be. A few years ago, I soundly trounced Onondaga County’s Chief Welfare Attorney, Zachery Karmen, in a fair hearing (see also https://annecwoodlen.wordpress.com/2010/10/22/the-fairly-fair-fair-hearing-part-i/ ) So now I have more question for my contacts, and I keep amending the complaint to include them. If I have not received a legally valid notice of termination then does the VNA still owe me services?
I’m still bugged about Ms Patti telling me the VNA was licensed by the Dept. of Education and me not being able to find anything, so I go on the computer to DOE, get their phone number, call them up and follow the teleprompts. None of the prompts are directly useful so, when filing a complaint, I chose the Counsels’ Office, where I get a woman who says, Oh no, they don’t license home health care agencies—the NYS Dept. of Health does that. Duh.
The helpful person transfers me to the Dept. of Health (DOH), which transfers me to the Regional Office, which is—wait for it—six blocks away from me. There I talk to a very helpful man who asks me some good questions and gives me his email address, so I send him the complaint, too.
Then I call the Visiting Nurse Association and ask for CEO Kate Rolf. I am told that she isn’t in and they don’t know when she’ll be back. The last time I called her, she was out for a week. I am offered her voice mail. I accept and leave the following message:
I have filed, or am in the process of filing, complaints against the VNA, you, V.P. Gail Carmichael, Director Amor Bango, and Nurse Sharon Cwikla, with the local Medicaid Fraud Unit, and the New York State Departments of Education and Health, the Commission on Quality of Care, and the Medicaid Inspector General.
Why don’t you give me a call. I can explain what you’ve done wrong and what services I’d like you to provide to me.
Have a good day.
Then I sink back on my pillows and smile and smile and never cry at all.
This is how to cure chronic depression: learn to take effective action. We are not victims; we are patients who have rights.