Two veterans in the Kansas City area requested their medical records from the Kansas City Veterans Affairs medical center this year. When they received them, the records in the file weren’t theirs.
A third veteran went through Rep. Mark Alford’s office to get their medical records from the VA’s congressional liaison. Alford’s office received the records of a different veteran.
The Missouri Republican Wednesday sent a letter to Veterans Affairs Secretary Dennis McDonough looking for answers as to why the VA is sending people the wrong medical records, exposing birth dates, addresses and social security numbers in the process.
“The recent mistakes made by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) are deeply concerning,” Alford said in a written statement. “Not only are they violating the privacy of veterans, but they are violating their trust. Patients visiting VA facilities should have the utmost faith in the system to protect their medical records. These incidents undermine just that.”
The Kansas City VA did not respond to a request for comment.
It isn’t the first time the VA has sent out incorrect medical records. The issue happens frequently enough that the VA website has a post explaining what veterans should do if they receive someone’s information in the mail. A 2015 investigation by ProPublica and National Public Radio found 10,000 privacy violations in four years.
The VA unveiled a new website this year where patients can report privacy violations, but despite the existence of the sight, Alford’s office said it had not heard any guidance from the VA.
“My staff have contacted VA Congressional liaison staff on how to handle the incorrect records of veterans they have received and have not obtained guidance yet,” Alford wrote in his letter. “It is deeply troubling that the VA has failed to send the correct constituent information to my staff.”
The mishandling of private information at the Kansas City VA office comes as the Office of the Investigator General released a report about a lack of oversight for prescriptions in the VA’s eastern Kansas health branches in Topeka and Leavenworth.
The inspector general found at least two instances where patients had overlapping prescriptions for controlled substances like opioids and benzodiazepine. In one case, a patient with a history of opioid and benzodiazepine dependence was able to get prescriptions from multiple sources, including VA medical centers in two states and through emergency departments.
Sen. Jerry Moran, the top Republican on the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, said the report shows a growing pattern of negligence for the VA and highlights the struggles the agency has had with oversight.
“I am concerned by a growing pattern of negligence by the VA in coordinating veteran care and holding providers accountable,” the Kansas senator said. “This report highlights the importance of careful treatment and supervision of veteran patients with chronic pain and mental health conditions.”