FOX25 Investigates: Veterans' Medical Records Exposed

FOX25 Investigates: Veterans’ Medical Records Exposed

BOSTON — Veterans Affairs in Boston is apologizing for a mix-up that sent hundreds of pages of sensitive medical records to the wrong veterans. FOX25 Investigates discovered the error is not an isolated incident and now some veterans and advocates are calling for better accountability.

Privacy Violated

A Navy veteran contacted FOX25 Investigates when a mail delivery from the VA Boston Healthcare System revealed a glaring error.

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“I look down at the bottom and I see another individual’s name on there,” said the vet who asked not to be identified.

Upon closer inspection, the entire medical file, nearly 600 pages, belonged to another veteran. The documents included his Social Security number, date of birth, medications and doctor’s notes. The Navy vet soon learned his records had also been mistaken mailed to other veteran, who called him to report the error.

“I just feel very violated. It hurts,” said the veteran whose medical records likely include notes related to his ongoing struggles and treatment for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

He said he only received a call from the VA, apologizing for the mistake, after FOX25 Investigates got involved.

“They need to be held accountable. Someone needs to be held accountable for this,” said the vet.

VA Response

When FOX25 Investigates contacted the VA in Boston, its Public Affairs Officer declined a request for an on-camera interview, but said the matter is still under investigation and e-mailed the following statement:

"We apologize for the mis-mailing of patient information between two Veterans here at the VA Boston Healthcare System. Our goal is to safeguard Veteran  information at all times.

All VA Boston  employees undergo mandatory annual information security training to prevent events of this nature from happening. If they do, we identify, counsel and reeducate the employee on patient privacy and attention to detail.

We will contact both Veterans and inform them of the employee retraining and offer them both  credit monitoring services.  Again, we regret the inconvenience to our Veterans.”

The name of the records technician identified in the documents mailed to the veteran led FOX25 Investigates to a Facebook page for the same woman which indicated she just started her job at the VA in 2016.

History of Problems

The discovery of the mail mix-up in Boston is only the latest high-profile problem for the VA. Cases of veterans struggling to get medical appointments, some even dying while waiting to see a doctor, have been well documented.

Cases of veterans receiving the wrong medical records have also been reported across the country.

“Just saying ‘sorry’ is not enough. They need to do a lot more,” said Chris Lessard, combat veteran and director of Massachusetts Fallen Heroes.

Lessard says his organization continues to hear from veterans struggling to get the medical care they need from the VA. He’s not satisfied with the VA’s response to mishandling veterans’ medical records.

“It's more than just saying someone's records got misplaced, what's the big deal? This is a major security breach, in my opinion,” said Lessard.