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Is Your VA Hospital Spying on You?


Is your VA hospital spying on you? Well, maybe. If you’re a patient or visiting family member. In a recent case involving an elderly brain-damaged Korean War veteran, ongoing friction between a Tampa VA hospital staff and the patient’s family led nurses to install an observation camera in a smoke detector in the patient’s room.

According to the Veterans Administration’s own internal Inspector General’s report, the staff’s intent was to try to determine who or what seemed to have been sabotaging the patient’s care. The staff had noted that the patient’s bed had been repositioned without their knowledge, the patient had been repositioned without their knowledge, and drug dispensation rates from intravenous machines seem to have been altered.

The family discovered the camera, however, and reacted with outrage that the VA had been spying on the patient (and them) without their having been informed.

Representative Jeff Miller (R-Florida), the chairman of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee, has introduced legislation – a bill he calls The Veterans Privacy Act - to prohibit VA hospitals from installing cameras without the knowledge or consent of patients and their families.

“This type of behavior is as bizarre as it is outrageous,” stated Miller in a public release. To think that some VA employees actually thought it a good idea to covertly record a patient with a video camera disguised as a smoke detector really just boggles the mind. What’s worse is that when we questioned VA regarding the legality of these actions, department officials contended they had done nothing wrong. The Veterans Privacy Act will keep covert, Big Brother tactics out of VA medical centers and protect the sacred trust that should exist between VA and veteran patients and their families,” Miller said.

However, the VA inspector general found that the hospital’s use of surveillance in this case was reasonable, as a routine measure to ensure patient safety.

The full text of the bill is available here.

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