VA Whistleblower | Veterans Affairs Whistleblower
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In the past two years, the Department of Veterans Affairs has received increasing complaints regarding privacy issues with the medical records of veterans. Since 2011, over 10,000 privacy violations have occurred within the Department of Veterans Affairs, specifically with regard to mishandling of medical records.
One particular incident occurred with a veteran named Anthony McCann. He requested his medical records from the Department of Veterans Affairs, but when he opened “his” file, McCann discovered 256 pages of another veteran’s extensive medical mental health records. The nature of the document was incredibly personal. This was not the first time Anthony McCann had received another veteran’s records. In the past, he had simply taken the records back to the local Tennessee VA office, but this time he decided to take a stand.
Anthony McCann went to a town hall VA meeting and once the staff opened up the floor for questions, McCann held up the document and explained that he’d gotten over 250 pages of another veteran’s personal mental health records. They asked for the documents back, but McCann refused and explained that he no longer trusted them.
The danger of this incidents and other incidents like it is that not only does it destroy the concept of doctor-patient confidentiality, but the Department of Veterans Affairs’ lax attitude toward the privacy of medical records could lead to greater issues for veterans down the line, such as being passed over for certain jobs. Inadvertent discrimination could directly or indirectly result from information leaks of this nature. It is illegal to release a patient’s information without permission for good reasons.
Privacy complaints involving the Department of Veterans Affairs extend beyond medical record leaks. Widows have reported receiving sympathy letters in regard to unrelated veterans, including breakdowns of survivor benefits strictly for the losses of those veterans, rather than the ones they actually lost.
One particularly disturbing incident involved a veteran who worked at C.W. Bill Young VA Medical Center. He attempted suicide in January of 2015, but survived. Soon after, many employees reached out to him to see how he was doing, but they should not have known about the attempt because they were not directly involved in his emergency response and treatment. He was quite certain that there had been a violation of privacy and employees had unethically gotten access to his records. It was later revealed that an unauthorized employee had, in fact, gotten into his medical files “out of curiosity” and told others of the man’s suicide attempt.
Brandon Coleman, a veteran and employee in the Phoenix VA medical center came forward after witnessing disturbing behavior in his field. Coleman is a former addict and now works as a counselor helping veterans fight addiction. He works with high-risk patients that are struggling with their mental health. In his job, Coleman has witnessed suicidal veterans turned away or sent home before the completion of their program.
Coleman came forward to his superiors within his workplace after a particular week where five suicidal veterans were turned away, and was suspended within the next week. This act of retaliation was the only the tip of the iceberg for Brandon Coleman and the Department of Veterans Affairs.
After Coleman was put on leave, his program was cancelled. He had successfully rehabilitated 51 veterans in his program, but those who were in the midst of the program were unable to finish. However, he persists in his actions to change the atmosphere of various VA clinics around the country, reforming them to greater improve the quality of care for veterans.
These breaches of privacy and healthcare failures have caused distrust and unrest within the community of veterans and families in the United States. The Department of Veterans Affairs should be beneficial to veterans, rather than detrimental.