Republican Study Committee Chairman Jim Banks (R-IN), a Navy reservist, is calling on the Department of Veterans Affairs to discipline a VA employee who posted a patient’s medical record on Twitter in an attempt to mock and shame him for seeking a medical procedure related to erectile dysfunction.
“Employees who mock and make public a veteran’s deeply sensitive medical procedure have no business being employed at the VA,” Banks said.
Banks sent the letter on Wednesday to VA Secretary Denis McDonough, writing:
It has come to my attention that an employee of the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) recently shared a veteran’s private medical information on social media in an attempt to mock and shame him. On September 13 at 7:54 a.m., an administrator employed at the Washington, D.C. VA Medical Center released a photograph of a patient’s surgical notes which included sensitive medical information, age, mental status, and more. After receiving negative feedback for their actions, the employee then tried to claim that the photograph was pulled from the internet.
It is critical that the VA look into this matter and determine if, in fact, this employee shared a veteran’s personal medical information. This action may be a violation of the veteran’s civil rights under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act as well as contrary to VA-specific patient privacy regulations.
Screenshots of the posts showed that the VA patient had gotten an implant related to erectile dysfunction.
She tweeted a photo of his medical record, along with: “72y/o male gets government-funded surgery.” In another tweet, she said, “He’s 72! Just take the L on this one, my friend. Retire from the game.”
The VA employee deleted the screenshots and then deleted her account altogether.
The employee’s tweet posts indicated she believed she was highlighting inequality to health care treatment for men and women.
Breitbart News sent two queries to the VA on Tuesday and Wednesday regarding the incident, but received no response or even acknowledgement of the queries.
Breitbart News had asked the VA:
1. Does the posting of medical records of VA patients on social media violate HIPAA or another VA policy on the privacy of patients?
2. Is this acceptable behavior by a VA employee? How can VA patients protect against this?
3. Does the VA plan to investigate this or take action if substantiated? How does the VA expect to build trust with patients, if its employees are posting their private records online?
Banks also wrote that biases against unvaccinated individuals coupled with appointment backlogs have caused some veterans to refrain from seeking treatment at the VA.
“If employees are now adding public humiliation to this list, veterans may avoid seeking care at the VA altogether,” Banks wrote.
He asked McDonough to ensure proper disciplinary action against the employee, including under the VA Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act.
He also asked McDonough to publicly address the situation and reassure veterans that their healthcare and privacy remain the VA’s top priority.