VA recently admitted to secretly recording a veteran and his family at the VHA in Haley, FL, in a rather disturbing set of questions from Congressman Jeff Miller. The device was hidden in a fire alarm without the family’s knowledge or consent.
Once the family was notified, VA lied to the family by claiming the video and audio were not being recorded. VA later admitted that the family was being recorded.
This may have violated the veteran’s Constitutional right to privacy, but the VA claims the actions were justified despite the veteran’s rights.
I stumbled across this questioning while doing another investigation last month and wanted to pass on the information to readers from a September 2012 hearing. Unfortunately, it did not make national headlines, and I could not find any follow-up from Congress after this hearing.
In the future, do not be surprised if the VA is recording you during hospital visits or disability compensation meetings. Rumors have circulated for the past few years that VA has been recording veterans for undisclosed purposes while in VHA hospitals. Now we know, at least in Haley, FL, that the VA will secretly watch you from hidden cameras.
Here is the story:
VA officials from Haley VA Medical Center, Florida, admitted that they secretly set up a recording system in the room of one disabled veteran without consent and without notifying the veteran or his family.
To make matters worse, rather being putting the video camera in plain sight, VA officials decided to hide it in a smoke detector. This “official decision” resulted in an infringement in the family’s right to privacy and was possibly a constitutional infringement. And, it is probably not the only incident.
Initially, when asked about the recordings, VA officials lied to reporters and the family by claiming that the video feed was not being recorded. They also claimed the audio was not being recorded. Later, VA officials admitted the statements were in fact not true, and that they were keeping recordings of the video and audio.
Congressman Jeff Miller, Majority Leader of the House Committee of Veterans Affairs, pressed VA’s Scott Gould about the matter. Ultimately, Gould stood by the VA’s decision, claiming the illegal recordings were made to preserve the safety of the veteran. In response to the allegations, Gould said, “Our greatest priority is safety and security of our patients, and we secured it with that camera.”
Safety and security? I would assume the VA should first be worried about the Constitution and the right of the veteran’s family to privacy.
In response, Rep. Jeff Miller said, “Common sense would say if you’re going to put a camera up, just put a camera up where people can see it.” He continued, “For some reason, someone [in the VA] made the decision to hide the camera. It was installed without notice. It was installed without consent. What is interesting to me… is that there is a claim that consent is not required within a VA facility…” The family tried to expressly state to VA that there was no consent given.
As previously stated, rumors have surfaced that the VA has begun recording veterans in VHA facilities without knowledge during Comp & Pension examinations, too. If those rumors are true, the VA is likely trying to build video cases against veterans’ disability claims.
Sadly, VA policies that are both anti-veteran and anti-Constitution have been surfacing over the past few months in a greater number than in recent years. It seems that the only thing the VA has excelled at is maintaining status quo despite the record amounts of money the agency has received from Congress.
While blowing billions in taxpayer dollars, VA has simultaneously been blowing holes in the Constitution.
Here is my big concern. What has happened since this hearing to ensure VA understands that veterans – the same people who swore to protect the Constitution – also get to enjoy its liberties after taking off the uniform?
I think we need to circle back around with Congress to ensure VA has provided the House Committee on Veterans Affairs with the information they promised to provide. I for one am done trusting the government to govern without citizen oversight.
Tampa Bay Times
House Committee on Veterans Affairs: September 20, 2012