After 4 years CBP IA disabled vet still mired in employment procedures

A decorated Naval officer with almost thirty years of military service to his country, Richardson maintains that while employed as a GS-14 Senior Security Analyst in the Integrity Programs Division (IPD) at CBP IA, his immediate supervisors and the Senior Executive at CBP IA repeatedly ignored his multiple medical issues. Richardson is an African American.

In advance of his return from his last tour of duty to his civilian position at CBP IA IPD, Richardson says he provided complete documentation of his medical status to all leadership. Nevertheless, he asserts that these same supervisors at CBP IA refused to provide the work accommodations necessary for him to succeed at his job. (Robert Lee Maril, “James F. Tomscheck forced disabled veteran from CBP IA – Pt. 2,” HSNW, 24 November 2014).  

The failure of these supervisors, alleges Richardson, led to a deterioration in his medical conditions until, finally, he could no longer endure the pain from which he suffered. At times Richardson says he was reduced to lying on the floor of his cubicle because of the pain in endured. Richardson said that because of this pain he eventually was forced to be absent from his work. This absenteeism, according to documents provided, was a major reason he was fired from IPD.

After appealing for help through the prescribed channels defined by agency employment procedures and policies, including the EEOC, Richardson says he was forced to seek legal representation from a Washington firm. Fees now owed to this firm have generated additional financial burdens on Richardson and his family.

Those at CBP IA named by Richardson deny all of his allegations and have stated they did everything they could to help him at CBP IA IPD (U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission Washington Field Office, John G. Richardson, Complainant, v. Jeh Johnson, Secretary, U. S. Department of Homeland Security, Case No. 570-2014-00113X, 4/19/2016).

IPD is the innovative CBP IA division developed and frequently managed on a daily basis by James F. Tomsheck (Robert Lee Maril, “Vet alleges supervisors at CBP IA ignored his disability: ‘He Just needed an ounce of compassion’ — Pt. 1,” HSNW, 28 October 2014). From 2006 until the summer of 2014, Tomsheck was the senior executive at CBP IA holding the title of Assistant Commissioner. Richardson’s immediate supervisors were Janine Marie Corrado, the Director of IPD, along with Jeffrey M. Matta who was the Assistant Director.

Although Richardson maintains that he provided his superiors timely and extensive documentation of his medical condition, he says that when he returned to his job at CBP IA they refused to accommodate his documented medical needs in the work place as a disabled veteran. Richardson asserts that his supervisors, including Tomsheck, were well aware of his conditions, but chose to ignore the pain from which he suffered. 

According to Richardson’s account, when all other options at work failed him and the required procedures, including EEOC and the Merit Systems Protection Board, had slowed to a snail’s pace, he began to contact a number of members of Congress as well as the media. At this time that he also became a whistleblower because he had witnessed practices and programs at CBP IA he believes are counterproductive to CBP IA standards and objectives. Because Richardson served at one point as a special assistant to Tomsheck, Richardson saw these practices and programs frequently carried out on a daily basis by IPD’s Corrado and Matta.

Richardson, who has a 90 percent medical military disability, still cannot believe that after nearly thirty years of service to his country and eight years in the CBP IA, his supervisors consistently ignored his documented medical disabilities. A range of medical and other supporting documents Richardson provided, along with interviews of two co-workers and other employees, appear to support Richardson’s assertions.

When directly contacted for their response to Richardson’s allegations, the CBP Office of Public Affairs said they could not, “… provide an interview or comment on this subject.”

Richardson was mobilized by his Naval Reserve unit five times to combat hazardous duty zones, once before the events of 9/11 and four times from 2001. At the time of his last tour, Richardson said he was up for promotion. But when Lt. Cdr. Richardson was preparing for his fifth tour of duty in Djibouti in East Africa, he injured his back. Because the symptoms did not immediately manifest themselves, he ignored the minor pain. But six months later while on operations in the field, “…my right leg went numb”. Upon returning stateside, Richardson received treatment from 2011-2012 at a naval facility for multiple medical issues as a part of the Temporary Disability Retirement List. But the surgeries that Richardson says his military doctors recommended after his fifth tour of duty never took place. All Richardson said he received during his stay at a naval medical facility was occupational therapy, counseling, and prescription drugs for his pain.

Richardson, according to documents he provided, notified his superiors multiple times during 2011-2012 of his job limitations because of his documented medical issues. He says that he requested both appropriate accommodations in the work place along with different assignments or positions within CBP IA or CBP. Richardson has a wide variety of work experience at CBP IA. At the time CBP IA had a work force of approximately 650 employees, while CBP had a work force of more than 60,000.

Eventually seen by a number of medical doctors in different military institutions both abroad and stateside including private physicians, Richardson was diagnosed with lumbar neuritis, a disease of the lumbar nerves. The doctors also listed, in addition to lumbar neuritis, the presence of osteoarthritis in his left and right knees. Osteoarthritis is a degenerative disease of the joints that Richardson was told would require surgery as soon as possible because bone was literally grinding against bone. Various military medical reports provided by Richardson, all signed and dated by the appropriate officials, also document osteoarthritis present in both his left and right shoulders. Again, he was told that both his shoulders required surgery.

While at the Navy medical facility, Richardson regularly and directly communicated with Jeffrey Matta and his other supervisors about these medical issues. These communications included sending Matta and all other supervisors copies of his current medical status and his need for appropriate accommodations in the work place.

Fast forward to 2016. Just seven weeks ago Richardson finally underwent his first surgery, surgery for his right shoulder. As a result of this surgery and the prescribed medication he must take, Richardson’s wife said she must drive him to his regular scheduled occupational therapy sessions and everywhere else he needs to go. It is evident that when Richardson rises from his kitchen table, or climbs the low stairs from his garage to the first floor of his house, or moves about his living room, he still suffers from the surgery on his right shoulder that has not completely healed. It is also evident that because of his knees and back problems, walking even a short distance appears challenging.

Although positive and in high spirits, Richardson readily admits that his recent shoulder surgery is only the first step in what he hopes will be a return to leading a normal life. In fact, Richardson appears remarkably optimistic about his current medical condition even while admitting that he faces a long road ahead of him. He offers that he finally feels he is, “…over the hump” from his first surgery and optimistic about the surgery to his other shoulder and knees. Additional surgery has already been scheduled in early August for both his knees, after which he will have surgery to his other shoulder as soon as his doctors tell him he is ready. While that still leaves him to contend with his back pain Richardson is, nevertheless, upbeat about both his current progress and his future.

From his home in Richmond Richardson says his present goal is to set the record straight with regards to his work performance at CBP IA. He also wants to make sure other medically disabled veterans at CBP do not experience the job harassment he experienced from his supervisors.

Richardson’s cases with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Merit Systems Protection Board still remain in litigation (John G. Richardson, Appellant, v. Department of Homeland Security, Docket Number DC-0752-14-0570-I-1, DC-0752-14-0570-I-2, DC-0752-14-0570-I-3). Says Richardson, “a normal person could not continue to pursue this case. It has been years and they are still stalling.” 

Since Richardson’s troubles began in 2012, major changes have occurred in CBP IA and IPD. Some of these organizational changes are most probably a response to allegations, charges, and reports based upon Tomsheck’s rapid departure from his position as the senior executive in charge of CBP IA. In June, 2014, Tomsheck sought federal whistleblower status under the Whistleblower Protection Act of 1989. In this historically unprecedented action by a senior executive at CBP IA, Tomsheck charged his own superiors with mismanagement as well as alleging that CBP officers and agents were guilty of graft, corruption, and other acts of violence including murder. 

Said Tomsheck, “I believe the system was clearly engineered to interfere with our efforts to hold the border Patrol accountable” (Carrie Johnson, “Former Border Protection Insider Alleges Corruption, Distortion in Agency,” National Public Radio, 28 August 2014) Tomsheck also alleged that many cases against CBP employees, predominantly involving Border Patrol agents and Customs officers along the Mexican border, were never fairly investigated either by CBP or other federal law enforcement agencies. 

Mark Morgan, interim deputy assistant director for inspections at the FBI, soon replaced Tomsheck at CBP IA. One result of Morgan’s apparent investigation at CBP IA, an internal report which has not to date been made available to the public, is the creation of two new offices at CBP IA announced in late October, 2015 (Robert Lee Maril, “Major reorganization at CBP: Two new offices created,” HSNW, 2 December 2015).

In addition, the majority of supervisors, analysts, and staff at IPD have resigned, reassigned, or retired or were encouraged to retire. In a few special cases, IPD employees were promoted. Ms. Janine Corrado, the IPD Director, was promoted first to the position of Chief of Staff at CBP IA, then to the position of Chief of Staff for Gregory Marshall, Chief Security Officer at the Department of Homeland Security. Corrado’s Assistant Director, Jeffrey Matta, was promoted to the position of Director to replace his former boss, then he took what appears to a position of less responsibility and authority in the Office of Field Operations at CBP. It is not clear at this time if he still holds this same position (“CBP IA’s Janine Corrado and Jeffrey M. Matta leave agency for new positions,”, HSNW, 27 November 2014). 

IPD no longer officially exists. Instead the Integrity Program Division at CBP IA has been newly replaced by the Office of Professional Responsibility (U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Office of Professional Responsibility. The American Immigration Council recently filed a class action lawsuit against Customs and Border Protection. This lawsuit directly challenges CBP’s failure to respond to legitimate requests for information about its policies, practices, and actions in a timely manner as required by the Freedom of Information Act (American Immigration Council: Brown v. CBP, No. 15-cv-01181). In fact, Richardson says that he has had problems in his legal cases against CBP because they will not provide him a variety of documents that are necessary to his case in a timely fashion.

Richardson faces yet another hearing in July. “A normal disabled vet could not have put up with all this like I did. Most would have given up by now because they (CBP, EEOC, etc) take so long.” Richardson says he believes that the constant delays, requests for information and forms he has already provided but then are lost, along with deliberate mistakes and miscalculations, are all a part of a strategy used against him and other disabled vets. In response since 2012, Richardson has relied on his believe in the truth of his actions, his knowledge of his service to his country both in the military and at CBP IA, and his faith. 

After requesting information in 2013 from CBP about any investigations or reports about him while he was an employee, Richardson finally received a reply on 15 June 15, 2016, by way of Representative Dave Brat (R-Virginia). Brat wrote a letter to CBP 13 May 2016 on behalf of constituent Richardson in which he requested the same information Richardson had requested in 2013 about his on-going case. The letter to CBP, signed by CBP’s Michael Yeager, Assistant Commissioner in the Office of Congressional Affairs, states that, “Requests for investigative reports or other records may be made via the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) process by submitting a request online …”. 

What the CBP letter does not say is that Richardson sent CBP a request for this same information in 2013 and that CBP, as noted above, is in fact being sued in a class action suit for not responding to FOIA requests in a timely manner. In sum, CBP did not respond to Richardson for three years and now in this letter they tell Richardson through Representative Brat that all Richardson has to do to receive the information he requested in 2013 is to submit a request through the FOIA in 2016.

In turn, Lt. Cdr. Richardson says that what has happened to him should never have to happen again to a returning disabled vet. He adds, “I could not have done this without my wife. She’s been my rock.”

Robert Lee Maril, a professor of Sociology at East Carolina University, is the author of The Fence: National Security, Public Safety, and Illegal Immigration along the U.S.-Mexico Border. He blogs at