This is totally unacceptable and the audacity of the VA Secretary to state it's mainly due to the veteran not wanting the families to find them. I'm calling that BS! Veterans' are doing it because of many reasons relating to the VA. Veterans are tired of fighting for their benefits, taking years to receive them, receiving poor medical care, lack of effective mental health programs, unauthorized access to our records, etc...It's because of the VA not about the family finding us. I almost committed suicide this year on the VA grounds. I am 100% service connected and was medical retired due to my service connection disabilities. After 9 years, I decide to trust the VA where we recently moved to in receiving care, many for PTSD/Severe Depression. The E2 inpatient ward (psych ward) was ok and none of the employees, that I can remember did anything unprofessional except one doctor who came to see me on the ward and I asked her about getting into the Domillicary 'DOM' inpatient program once they release me from E2. I had also informed her that I was thinking about separating from my spouse (anyone with PTSD knows why we go through this). Her response to me was that she didn't think it was a good idea because I could get into the program, meet a guy, have sex and he would become my enabler. I notified the nurse on E2 about it and stated I didn't want to see her again or have her involved in my care. The following day this doctor came to my room on E2 to state that she's heard that we have a problem, she wanted to know what I said and then told me that she didn't say that to me. So if she knew I notified the nurse and staff on E2 and that I didn't want to speak to her then why did she come back to confront me. The Caregiver Program at my VA has completely eliminated the involvement of veteran's Primary Care Team in all aspects of the Caregiver Program. The Caregiver program accesses a veteran's records to include psychotherapy notes (without written authorization and HIPPA and VA require a written release on psychotherapy notes - these are a veteran's private conversations with his/her mental health doctor's), determine who will be your caregiver, what personal care services you require, rate them to determine your caregiver paid hours, etc...Yes, they do it all without a veteran's Primary Care Team. Read 38 CFR 71 that governs the program and you will read for yourself there is no mention of the Caregiver Program doing anything in the process - it does state what a veteran's Primary Care Team is required to do. I was horrified to find out from my caregiver that not only did his Caregiver Coordinator read my psychotherapy notes she discussed them with the Caregiver Program Board which consist of only Caregiver employees. I appealed and the hospital director and his leadership, according to his letter he sent me, agree with the Caregiver Supervisor. I also discovered that every VA employee at my VA has total access to all veteran's records without any oversight. The Patient Advocate told me that they go on an 'integrity' system entrusting their employees to do the right thing.
And he, VA Secretary, wants to blame it on veteran's not wanting to be found by their families. How many years before this started happening did veteran's commit suicide and was found by family members. Hello, this is a new trend and it has nothing to do about our families finding us.
I just cannot begin to understand what is so wrong with the system that it cannot be fixed. Why it takes so long for things to happen. I've been fighting the above issues with my VA since August 2017. I finally got a response from the Health and Human Services (HHS) about my HIPPA complaint because they are the only official one you can file a formal complaint, they will investigate, decide the corrective action or if they will prosecute or fine them. VA is the #1 HIPPA violator every year, yes, every year. My unsecured mail in my unsecured, unlocked mail box has more protection than my records. It's a felony and people can go to jail. The government needs to change the laws to make HIPPA and Privacy violations felony criminal offenses. Let's see how many will violate our records.
Our representatives need to stop making laws and programs to correct the issues of others and start enforcing the ones they have and improving them. Stop holding people accountable and don't do it by retraining them on HIPPA and Privacy when it's a requirement when hired and annually afterwards. They have a Privacy Officer they can call to find out before access too. There is a difference of how many years training have they had, was it unintentional etc...They should be immediately fired and if they are a medical professional it is reported to their licensure board to put it on their official record or revoke their license.
Also, google HIPPA violations on veteran's who committed suicide and their records were accessed by dozens to hundreds of VA employees the day he/she committed suicide what happened to those people - retraining. They knew they had no medical need to know to access that veteran's records so they should have been charged and thrown in jail - since that can't happen then they should have been fired. They also violated HIPPA so what did the HHS do about it?
Start putting people in charge that are going to enforce the law, policies and regulations.
I've thought about this. I'm fighting an uphill battle with the VA currently. My medical records were stolen from me shortly after discharge, everything was lost when they moved the records to St Louis, and to top it off, I received an honorable jfx discharge. I'm on the verge of being homeless, my PCP won't prescribe my psych meds anymore and it seems everything is falling apart. So if you hear of one at the Saginaw, Michigan VA center, it was probably me.