In DMA meeting transcripts just released to me via FOIA, VA used hyperbole to justify withholding C&P examination medical records from veterans until after VBA makes a benefits decision. The agency excused an unjustified and sexist view of danger to justify denying veterans access to their medical records.
You may notice that the photos I picked here are shocking and offensive forms of training VA is utilizing to take down veterans the agency paints as crazed psychos. Apparently, VA’s fear of the veterans it serves is not limited to mere health care. Now, we are having our rights to property in the form of access to our medical records violated due to some vaguely described fear of us.
“[W]e do get these reports, and there’s a large percentage, and I don’t mean to sound sexist, but it is concerning, most of our C&P docs, many of our C&P docs are females, and they seem to be the ones that have the evening hours or they’re the ones in the far-flung CBOCs doing the examinations without the cop presence that is necessary for their own safety and security…. They’re the ones on our calls on a weekly basis that are raising these concerns. I’m not feeling all that comfortable. So we’re trying to address that.”
And by “address that” they mean removing access to C&P examinations by creating an additional layer of bureaucratic red tap that will prohibit a veteran from accessing her military sexual trauma examination until after VA issues a decision… likely a denial.
Can anyone say, “HIPAA”?
Last October, I was hot on the trail of VA’s new position to justify denying veterans access to their own medical records based on an irrational fear of disgruntled veterans immediately following an examination. VA initially ignored my request but I sent a second request and received them yesterday.
Interesting, right? Since when does a person’s fear allow for a depravation of property rights in the form of access to your complete medical records?
Some additional questions came to mind after thinking through the claims here about inadequate security at CBOCs for female examiners. Are these examiners VA employees? Or, are they government contractors hired to examine VA employees? Is this fear due to a lack of training? Why are problems so different today versus 50 years ago that VA is going to extreme lengths to secure medical records of veterans of todays wars? Are veterans today more violent? Or is this just a bunch of BS used to increase secrecy and lack of transparency?
In the meeting minutes I received yesterday, here is what VA said about veterans:
SEE: DMA Meeting Transcript (see page 233-36)
DR. CROSS: I’m a patient at the VA myself, and I use blue button. Finds out that some indication, probably not favorable outcome. That person can still be very–he hasn’t heard from VBA yet. Hasn’t heard about all the rights he has. He hasn’t heard about what he can do about appeals and so forth. So he’s got a partial picture.
Walks past the C&P clinic, and he’s very angry. Goes into the C&P clinic and we have an incident of some kind. Some of our C&P clinics are quite small. Some of our C&P clinics are far from the hospital where they have the VA police. Some of those clinics may only have like three staff in them, a female, whatever, who is not really–doesn’t really have much in the way of a reasonable defense.
We’re very concerned about them and working very hard on that. The first concern I have, the first approach that I want to take is lowering the stress level, and that’s what Danny is doing. Now we have to do some other things as well. We may have to put a code lock on the door, those kind of things that we don’t have right now so that a little bit of protection there.
You want to talk?
MR. DEVINE: The blue button, just so you all know, it’s part of My HealtheVet where the VA gets all the health care, and I can just–I can go into HealtheVet just right from here, and if there’s a relatively quick turnaround time for the C&P exam, I can read the whole thing right there, and that’s what he’s talking about.
Then I can just literally take my tablet and go and have a confrontation with a doc, and we do get these reports, and there’s a large percentage, and I don’t mean to sound sexist, but it is concerning, most of our C&P docs, many of our C&P docs are females, and they seem to be the ones that have the evening hours or they’re the ones in the far-flung CBOCs doing the examinations without the cop presence that is necessary for their own safety and security.
They’re the ones on our calls on a weekly basis that are raising these concerns. I’m not feeling all that comfortable. So we’re trying to address that.
MR. MURRAY: Just to add to the discussion, we are doing a couple of initiatives. One is removing the C&P exam from the blue button, and that is now in testing. The other part of this is veterans have been able go to the release of information and sign a release and get a copy of the C&P exams. We are moving the release of C&P exams over to VBA so that the adjudication can take place and VBA be responsible for the C&P exam so that is a work in progress, and I think we’re moving pretty quickly on that.
So if you can read between the lines, VA believes the redefining the process somehow allows them to deny immediate access to medical records. The implication is far reaching in that it may prevent attorneys from also reviewing copies of medical records prior to a decision being rendered. This could ultimately lead to appeals delays by prohibiting attorneys from seeking examinations to support a veteran’s claim.
What else do you see in those meeting minutes that seem peculiar? My next FOIA will be for records of complaints discussed in these minutes to see what the actual numbers are.