Veterans' privacy: Shoddy VA treatment
Betraying in yet another way its sacred duty toward all who've worn America's uniform, the Department of Veterans Affairs makes a mockery of its obligation to protect veterans' privacy.
A two-month Trib investigation found 14,215 privacy violations at 167 VA facilities that victimized at least 101,018 veterans from 2010 through May 31. Besides violations of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), which prohibits releasing medical information, there were social-media postings of photos of veterans' anatomy and incidents of credit-card fraud, snooping into patients' files, identity theft, prescription theft, lost Social Security numbers and failure to comply with mandatory data encryption.
Firings of VA employees for such outrageous conduct are outrageously rare. Just one of every 365 privacy-violation cases was turned over to the VA's Office of Inspector General, VA police or outside law enforcement. And policy prevents the Department of Health and Human Services' Office of Civil Rights — which one HIPAA expert calls Uncle Sam's “big hammer” in privacy cases — from penalizing the VA, even for repeat offenses.
With VA privacy violations continuing to rise, the agency's empty rhetoric and ineffective retraining clearly are not solutions. Congress must enable the HHS civil rights office to enforce real VA accountability for patients' privacy — and maintain close scrutiny of the VA, whose execrable performance seems ever more the opposite of its mission.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Thanksgiving 2014: Pausing in unison
- Remember our troops
- The turnpike scandal: More wet noodles
- Saturday essay: Prelude to thanks
- Obama’s amnesty: Abuse of power
- Greensburg Tuesday takes
- Pittsburgh Tuesday takes
- American contrasts: Post-Ferguson