Congress Calls Out Questionable VA Recording Program

VA Recording Program

Benjamin KrauseCongress called out the VA last night over a questionable, surreptitious VA recording program where VA employees solicit veterans to wire up like snitches to spy on VA doctors.

READ: Rep. Coffman Calls Out Surreptitious Recording Program

The program received $900k and used actors who took up needed health care slots to fulfill research goals that will inevitably be used to benefit large corporate hospitals and insurance agencies. The program was and is being implemented at Jesse Brown VAMC and Hines VA Hospital. It now uses just veterans without informed consent (a signed writing) or pay for their involvement in the project. The program did do both for the actors, but I guess veterans do not deserve the same consideration.

How typical, a VA research / QI program deems veterans as deserving less than actors faking being veterans? Whose health care is actually at risk for participating?

Rep. Mike Coffman from the House Committee on Veterans Affairs called on Under Secretary Carolyn Clancy to answer questions about a program using VA research funding to finance recording veterans with their doctors.

Before you clamor for joy about recording your doctor in the program, there is something you need to know. The recordings cannot be used in court. They cannot be used in a medical malpractice case. You cannot get copies of the recordings, and you will never know what VA does with the data. Instead, the recordings are aggregated to “improve care” for veterans.

Last month, I went to Chicago last month to find out more about the issue and was allowed to participate in negotiations on the subject and even wrote about whistleblower problems at Hines VA.

RELATED: Hines VA Hospital Cover-up Exposed

At the time, I had a chance to talk through the research with Dr. Saul Weiner, creator of the program. He created a clever “contextual red flag” system that I hope to modify to fit checklists for veterans to use when they come up against unethical VA employees.

As for secret recordings that disrupt the physician – client relationship, I have serious reservations. The program does not get informed consent from veterans, and in Illinois, where the program is run, it is illegal to record another person without their knowledge AND consent. Further, the program claims to not be conducting research while it is in fact doing exactly that and likely for the benefit of provide corporate interests later.

For more on that check out what Rep. Mike Coffman wrote. Click on the top link in this article to review all the attachments reverence below:

Dear Dr. Clancy,

According to a letter from Dr. Jeffrey A. Murawsky (former VISN 12 Network Director), dated December 21, 2012, VA approved a quality improvement grant to VA employee, Dr. Saul Weiner, to be used at the Edward Hines, Jr. VAMC, the Jesse Brown VAMC, and other VA health care facilities. This work is purportedly at a cost of at least $900,000. The purpose of the quality improvement study is “To improve staff and provide attention to Veterans’ individual circumstances and needs, or ‘contest,’ when assisting them or planning their care.” Dr. Weiner’s overall research on the patient/physician experience has been ongoing since 2006, and his work has been published in the Annals of Internal Medicine (20 July 2010, Vol. 153. No.2), a peer reviewed journal.   See enclosures.

The Committee has learned that, according to Dr. Weiner’s own admission, actors were hired to portray Veterans throughout this study. The actors wore hidden microphones to capture the physician-patient interaction; feigned symptoms that took real appointment slots from Veterans and tied up facility resources, such as lab tests, while health care professionals sought answers to the actors’ fake maladies.   VA physicians were forewarned that “patients” would be “wired” in order to capture the physician-patient dialogue.

As the study progressed and after concerns were voiced by Veterans about the misuse of resources, Dr. Weiner purportedly began enlisting actual Veterans from facility waiting rooms. According to complaints filed with the local union, some Veterans did not want to participate, but in at least one instance, a Veteran was badgered at least four times to do so. Veterans noted concerns that, if they did not participate, they would be “flagged” as uncooperative and might be retaliated against by the facility. In these instances, those Veterans who did participate alerted the physician by handwritten note that they were being recorded during the physician-patient interaction. Apparently, none of the Veterans used in this study signed a consent form to participate.

I wanted to bring this situation to your attention for a number of reasons. Firstly, the improper use of VA resources for actors’ fake maladies is beyond comprehension given VA’s wait times scandal and wasteful spending scandal, both problems that continue to occur across VA.

Secondly, the potential that a VA employee received a $900,000 grant to perform a study on the quality of VA’s physician-patient experience is questionable at best given other priorities.

Thirdly, Dr. Weiner’s research, presumably for publication in a peer review journal, is based on the conversations between physicians and patients, the former who were alerted that patients would be wearing a microphone, thus introducing a bias into the outcome of the study. Finally, one thing that is not measurable, and is apparently not even a consideration in the conduct of this study, is the damage done to the physician-patient trust relationship.

Within the Department’s limited resources, how did this project receive approval since it was determined that an Institutional Review Board was not required? Also, how will you address this issue moving forward?

If you have any questions, please contact Mr. Eric Hannel, Staff Director for the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, at (202) 225-3569.


Mike Coffman


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  1. A few months ago the founder of a major vets organization that testifies before Congress and has a national following told me that I should “steer clear of Ben Krause”. I have been silent on this site all this time, thinking about why that person said that, but they did not specify why they said it. I don’t believe it matters why they said it. And, if Ben wants to find out the details, unless he knows already, Ben, you have my email address and home phone number. If I end up telling you who it is I will first let them know I am doing so. And, to be clear, this is to serve as an example of a HUGE reason the VA beats down all organizations that dare confront them on their organized crime syndicate or whatever it is the VA should be called. McDonald is damn good at running a giant corporation, going up against the competition and crushing them out of the marketplace, using the simple concept of aggressive marketing and “conquer then divide”. Ben, when I first spoke to you a few years ago you thought, like most people, that veterans were being properly represented by Eric Shinseki. Back then I was actually yelling at you on the phone, trying to get you to snap out of it. Since then, after you heard the same from many more vets, you have gotten much more aggressive about VA incompetence, including that of Secretary McDonald. But, and this is a huge but, the truth remains, that there is no real unity, no synergy, no real cooperation, certainly no effective progress, and mostly just in-fighting and at best, passive cooperation between the thousands of vets organizations, with very little major accomplishments for vets even within the individual groups. Every Veterans Service organization, like the VFW, Amvets, and so on, have become emasculated picnic and softball team clubs. When is the last time you even heard in the major media, or saw on the major nightly news, one of the major veterans service organization coming down on the VA? The next time you do, if they even bother, it will be filtered and watered down because every single one of them have been infiltrated, bought off, bribed, silenced, intimidated, and sissy-fied by the VA. Ron Nessler or someone with him blocked me from “VA is Lying” when I provided proof on that the VA was lying about me. As you know, VA Police tried to frame me with a serious crime, but ended up having to provide me with a letter of apology. This is just one example of the irony that vets face when they go after VA corruption. There is no unity among vets, nothing that amounts to anything. McDonald and his mafia goons and lazy takers across the 365,000 veteran affairs employee staff system are laughing at you and every single veteran groups. How about if you try to break out of the box the VA has you and all of us in, instead of getting mad at you and telling you the truth. In there service we talked about the importance of courage and candor. I doubt if you will get it. I think you are too comfortable where you are. Prove me wrong on that, and please don’t play the silent game or come up with some snappy retort that the VA will be pleased by. My guess is you will do one of those two things or even retaliate. I am tired of trying to reason with weak negotiators who live in fear of what the VA’s next sick move will be. Stand up to them. They do not appreciate weakness. And, please don’t shoot the messenger. P.S. I don’t care what the mystery person meant when they said to steer clear of you. I think you both can work together, and I would appreciate it if that does not include running over me in the process. Take care and have a nice day. Reality time is over for now. If I don’t hear something back that is productive and responsible I will presume that warning to steer clear of you is valid. I hope not, for the sake of all vets. If we can’t work together, and that is the true case everywhere for all vet groups, the VA wins, and it will only get worse.

    1. Bruce, first, I would love to hear what some big bad VSO said about me. Second, I can only be amused that a big bad VSO would disparage a activist who self funded his own platform. I’ll send you a note to find out more.

  2. Question, when Dr. Weiner used’actors’ for his “study”, were they vets? If not, HOW did he get their names into the system? If not, WHO put their names into the system? Why did he pay them and not the veterans? This whole thing smells to high Heaven! I hope Congress goes after him HARD!!

  3. Here’s a question, since this ‘study’ was, or is, now being found out to be ‘ false’, has anyone questioned the “Annals of Internal Medicine” magazine to remove said article? I believe this Dr. should, at the very least be reprimanded, then brought before the State Medical Board and have his license revoked. He, in my opinion, has no business being in the medical profession! What do you all think?

  4. Just want to add, that when IW;s go to military docs for evaluations on their injuries/illnesses, whatever we said,about our injuries/illnesses were deleted from the unknown recordings as we found out. This got started by private corporations workers comp in the 80’s when it was all to deny our injuries.illnesses to open insurance claims for the takers. This was all handcrafted by employers and sanctioned by the unions. What is truly amazing that the real injuries /illnesses are acknowledged with a mental illness by the ssa but benefits that are are given is our money. The employer pays something but it is a little of the ssa/medicare and also not the comp benefits including rotten or no medical care, certainly one has to wonder what happens to all the comp money. I was told that it is illegal to tape someone without their knowledge by CA DA and also illegal in in federal law and that what happened to the sacred patient doctor relationship. which leaves all of this so insane beyond human comprehension that this all goes on in a free and democratic country.
    It seems one can’t trust anyone in any medical field anymore and certainly can’t trust what you’ve been told about your disabilities or illnesses.
    I don’t understand WHY the recordings cannot be gotten for being done illegally. and or retaliating against our vets.It’s all so unimaginable, like an ongoing nightmare to what some can get away with against our fellow humans.

    1. Dina, you believe this is a Democracy, or a Democratic Society. Your partly correct. We are taught at a young age this “ideal”. Only, this reminds me of something I learned at the University of Hawaii years ago. It seems Dr. Franklin was approached by an older woman (1789) as he was exiting the Philadelphia State House, when she asked, “Dr. Franklin, are we a ‘Republic’ or an ‘Oligarchy’?” To which, Dr. Franklin replied, “Maam
      , we are a ‘Constitutional Republic, as long as you can keep it!”
      In my opinion, our elected and appointed officials have forgotten this “HISTORICAL FACT”!!!!
      There is a great difference between the two. I hope you look up the difference. Thank You

      1. @crazyelf-
        You are so very correct. Imagine our ‘Founding Fathers’ have been flipping in their graves as if on a rotisserie for many years now, esp. what has been done to our Rights post-9/11.
        NEVER would have the Founding Fathers have EVER considered that ANY Corporation was considered the SAME as an Individual, allowing Corporations to have free-run of our Country with unlimited influence ($$$$), on our so0called Leaders.
        We really need to repeal “Citizens United”…even that name is a falsehood.


    no one at VA can process ANY TYPE of claim, correctly and timely. check the article out regarding complaints about claims for payment to civilian providers at the above link… now the public sector, besides the veteran community is strongly making their voices heard too for getting screwed. ol Bob-o taint gonna do squat about it and neither his boss. so keep reporting Ben and others.

    1. Don’t hold your breath Ronald. Remember ‘Old Bob’not only lied on national television (about his military service and how many he fired in the VA [meet the Press]).
      Therefore, I wouldn’t be expecting anything from him now or in the future!
      The only way I see any changes in the VA to happen, is for MANY of them to be arrested, tried then sentenced to lengthy jail terms!
      Until this occurs, NOTHING will change, in my opinion.

      1. Might be good to get all the facts. Try msnbc Memorial Day weekend with Patrick Murphy (former military airborne and Congressman) who interviewed the Secretary. In less than a year, he has done much to change the extensive problems of the VA’s past.

      2. You have a lot of flunkies sticking up for the Secretary for personal gain and trying to make a name for themselves. I truly think that an audit needs to be done on the side where veterans are putting in false claims that are taking away from the ones who do not even ask for benefits, but are devastated when they cannot receive them. This usually occurs after a major event that incapacitates them. I have seen heroes and placed them in bodybags without a mention of what they have done in the military. I have seen the holes where the jump wings they have earned that left holes that were punched in their chest to prove they know the “Creed”.Until a full scale audit of the $$$ is done, nothing will change.The posers need to go to jail, as well as any fatback employee harming veterans for profit.

      3. To CorpmanuP
        I too brought home many of my “Brothers” as a “Body Escort” (1969)! I still to this day feel the effects and sorrow of the families who had sons, brothers, husbands etc. etc. lost in Vietnam. This I did AFTER my ‘tour of duty in Vietnam’! To this day I remember the tears families shed. No one, unless they performed this “Duty”, can truly understand what it feels like!!!!!!!
        I saw the anguish on their faces!
        I’m sorry if I go on, it’s still in my mind!

  6. My opinion? Anyone in VA ,who is over the pay grade of GS-7 should be required to wear a helmet with a video recorder as police are now being required to wear in some locales.

  7. Three months ago I bought a small recorder , so as to tape my doctor appointments at VA . I called DAV in Montgomery Alabama, and asked them if I had the right to do this . I was told no . When I receive my medical records from Tuscaloosa Alabama VA ., I learned that much of what I said isn’t getting in my records and a lot of what they think is . It’s frustrating that a vet has no Avenue to straighten out his records other than deal with people that aren’t there . I am truly lost in the subject because the vet has no way of knowing what the doctor say let alone getting it right . The article about actors being paid, and veterans being used , seems very typical to me . Although it is also very sad .

  8. I think its a great program: I wish I would been wired when my primary care doctor told me that “Everybody at the VA is a druggie!” and told me to get an outside physician to deem me disabled, then discredited the $6K exam on my VA notes when I presented the report to him….

    1. It would be at least useful for the individual veteran if we could use the recording for malpractice or if we needed it for some other purpose. Here, VA will not let the veteran have access to the recording after it is made.

      1. Ben, why do you believe taxpayers aren’t in an uproar over the BILLIONS of dollars being spent by the VA and other government agencies, where some could argue criminal acts had, and possibly are, being commited?
        For some reason, I believe the American taxpayers have become appathetic over our elected and appointed officials! I hope they get off their butts and let the officials know exactly how they feel! Until that happens, I feel nothing will change. So damn sad!!!!!!!

    2. @jason :

      every doctor i showed my outside disability exam+MRIs+tests, dismissed them and didn’t write zilch about them in any record. notta, zero! i thought, mistakenly so, VA was supposed to honor outside medical evidence?

      however, the VBA agreed with the evidence with my claim and granted the claim. hard to ignore such positive tests from that many sources.

      it has been difficult, mentally speaking, to see anyone at VA since, because you know without a doubt they won’t/can’t honor any truth from the veteran if it remotely means a claim or increase or conflict with a VA doctor’s impression of veterans condition.

      you’re not the only one jason, sure seems to be the norm at VA and the more veterans know of this practice the better, so they can ensure they don’t get duped like many of us before them. i don’t want to see them go through what many of us have gone through if we can help it.

      its a real mind-f!@# minefield.

  9. Amazing; once again the VA proves it will do anything and everything except provide immediate and good healthcare services to the real veteran. The money and time wasted could have been used more effectively, helping legitimate patients. The money could pay claims to veterans with disabilities. Ben, thank you once again for exposing this nonsense. Congress needs to have a real oversight committee to report back these schemes and then the people involved be fined, terminated, or jailed. Just a couple of examples of tough punishment will turn the VA around.

  10. Ben, I would truly like to know why taxpayers have not come forward and let their elected officials know just how disgusted they are with the way their money is being spent??
    It seems no one is as outraged over this as we veterans are!
    I applaud you, Ben, for helping the “whistleblowers”. Only i believe more needs to be done to put the corrupt VA employees where they belong, in jail!

    1. I think vets should willingly be wired up or have a tape recorder with them to prove when a C & P doctor writes down something that they never said at the C & P exam or is not true at all.

      I sure wish I could have taped some phone calls I got from my RO, In NY you have to tell them they are being taped.

      Maybe I will start taping them anyhow.

      The one I got from VACO was even worse then the RO. I had to contact the IG. The guy at VACO said they already paid me 22 months of accrued benefits.

      I only got 6 months of accrued

      He was some Chief at Comp and Pension services in VACO and said it was clear on what he was reading that I did get the additional 16 months,

      I told the IG who he was, I also have email from him and asked the IG who got my money. I sure didnt.

  11. My problem with this is the fact that Dr. Saul Weiner is NOT using ANY true “Scientific Method” without there being ANY “Control Group”, and the fact that Physicians KNEW IN ADVANCE this was going on simply means ANY data is already immediately “dirty/tainted” because people would “adjust their behavior” based upon knowing they were possibly being recorded.
    My other major problem is Dr. Saul Weiner receiving $900,000. for such “muddy science”…ANY Undergrad Intro-Level 101 Science of your choice Class would inform a person of what a TRUE “Scientific Method” entails and THIS does not even pass a sniff test from across a basketball court…it reeks of “Bad Science”…as in using a lobotomy to resolve a headache kind of bad science.

    I would MUCH rather see the VA OIG utilize recordings from Whistle Blowers and Others to investigate THE VA rather than placing scrutiny on the Veterans.

    Lastly, I agree with Ben and Rep. Mike Coffman that this is simply unacceptable to be using actors to “feign Veteran Symptoms”, filling appointment slots that could have helped serve actual Veterans in need to care. Makes one wonder how much blood money Dr. Saul Weiner has on his hands by Veterans whom either died of complications due to not being able to get into appointment because they had been rescheduled far in advance yet again because “Actors” were given priority for Dr. Saul Weiner’s little bad science project or how many Veteran Suicides took place because of being pushed further deep in the VA Waiting List for an appointment?

    This is simply HACK SCIENCE, at best. Ben, review what *any* true Study requires when used in Science…”The Scientific Method”, Control Groups, et al.

    Another question would be just what flavor of Nepotism was used to select these “actors”? How much did they receive? How about an Official Audit on Dr. Saul Weiner’s complete project? How about a personal Audit on Dr. Saul Weiner? Seems such a study surely would not have cost even 10% of $900,000., if even that, the way in which this was UN-scientifically performed…there’s been incredibly low budget Art Films that became successful in mainstream for much less than this study cost.

    Ben, if no prior official consent, how many HIPPA Violations were performed with this junk science? We can clearly see this study has NOT helped the VA Vulture Culture…just think that could have been $ for Veteran’s awarded claims or utilized in various other beneficial ways rather than trying to vilify Veterans by more or less “mocking” Veterans…and I think this “study” is an insult to real researchers out there, nothing less.

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