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More VA Problems: Baltimore VA Benefits Office May Have Privacy Breach

The Baltimore Regional Benefit Office within the Veterans Affairs system appears to have a privacy breach. It's the latest problem for a system also plagued by delays in getting veterans to see doctors.

The Baltimore Regional Benefit Office within the Veterans Affairs system appears to have a privacy breach. File|Patch
The Baltimore Regional Benefit Office within the Veterans Affairs system appears to have a privacy breach. File|Patch

First, Maryland residents learned that wait times for the state’s estimated 450,000 veterans to receive care at the Baltimore VA Medical Center was among the worst in the country. 

Now, VA officials say that the Baltimore Regional Benefit Office within the Veterans Affairs system appears to have a privacy breach.

A Baltimore employee of the benefits division was replaced after officials found thousands of claims documents stacked in his office, reports WJZ TV. Managers are sorting through documents and claim folders to determine which contain Social Security and other sensitive information.

Acting director of Veterans Affairs Sloan Gibson admits trust has been broken. “Ultimately that’s what we’re after: trust,” Gibson told WJZ.

“We have a responsibility to take care of all of their needs. They answered their call immediately and they did not expect that they would have to fight their bureaucracy when they returned home. Fighting our enemies was enough of a battle for them. Let’s make sure we take care of them,” said Senator Ben Cardin.

Wait Times for Veterans to See Doctors

Maryland veterans face one of the longest waits in the country to receive care at Veterans Administration medical centers, according to checks.

Veterans and Maryland Senators Barbara Mikulski and Ben Cardin said in June the biggest hurdle is gaining that first appointment. The senators visited the Baltimore VA Medical Center last month to focus on the wait time issue and talk to the veterans who visit the hospital.

Lawmakers, veterans and taxpayers began to closely scrutinize access to VA hospitals following allegations this spring that 40 patients died while awaiting care at the Phoenix VA hospital, The Washington Post reports. Employees at the Phoenix location kept a secret waiting list to cover delays in medical treatment.

Audit results showed Maryland as the state with the fourth-longest wait for new patients seeking a primary care doctor, according to the Washington Post. The wait time? 81 days -- five times the two-week period that the U.S. Veterans Affairs Department set as guidelines for someone to see a doctor.

“The administration system is an absolute jumble,” VA patient Elliott Gage told CBS Baltimore. “Close to chaos. Nobody knows exactly how anything works. It’s like the telephone company. They really don’t know how all the wires come together. They call it the machine.”

The federal government has allocated $58 billion to the VA medical system -- a $2 billion increase from last year, according to CBS Baltimore. Out of that total, $500 million is dedicated to hire more primary care doctors to service patients. The Senate has also passed a bill to move patients into the private sector for treatment if VA facilities cannot provide timely care.

Nationally, Washington Post reports the audit, which included interviews with more than 3,772 VA employees between May 12 and June 3, found over 57,000 patients still waiting for an initial appointment 90 days after requesting them.

Charles Roberts July 15, 2014 at 08:35 PM
I live in Kensington but find the DC Vet Hospital more accomodating and friendly. All my treatments and records are on computer-no matter if I get an MRI or visit my assigned doctor my history, medications, treatment are available to the provider. I don't have to relate what meds i'm taking or what the results of blood tests were nor carry around papers, documents or x-rays. All are on file. In the hospital you are on familiar ground-look for an office, can't find it, often anyone working there, nurse, assistant will show you the way. I've encountered some problems but none worse than in the private sector.
Jim Starowicz July 16, 2014 at 07:48 AM
Veterans Bill STILL In Negotiations? Miller in the House Burr in the Senate lead, once again, in that Obstruction!! 'Congress {Conservatives in Both House's, DeJa-Vu!!} Scrambling to Lower Cost of Bill to Fix Veterans' Health Care' “Why in 2009 were we still using paper?” VA Assistant Secretary Tommy Sowers “When we came in, there was no plan to change that; we’ve been operating on a six month wait for over a decade.” 27 March 2013 They got the Gen. "Mission Accomplished" problems solved!!! What the f**k is there to 'negotiate'? You tell those you represent, them Poser Patriots, it's way past time they Sacrifice, these present wars are yet paid for! You demand they stop ignoring the many issues Veterans come back from those, flag waving patriotic, wars continue fighting for care for, decades now! You stop throwing millions at studies to get the results you already know will come back from and those served want! You stop supporting those that make comfortable livings writing and speaking what you want to hear that the issues don't exist! The proof is right in front of you and you represent them as well, after they've served! “We’re not going to get into a squabble about whether you cut back on education or food stamps in order to fund the needs of veterans,” said Sanders. “That is the debate that shut down the government. That is not a way that we treat our veterans. 'House, Senate In Talks On Veterans Bill' "If military action is worth our troops’ blood, it should be worth our treasure, too" "not just in the abstract, but in the form of a specific ante by every American." -Andrew Rosenthal 10 Feb. 2013 Jul. 7, 2014 - 'Congress has little time to finalize VA, defense bills' The new Veterans Affairs Department reform bill, the annual defense appropriation bill, the annual defense authorization bill, and funding for military construction and VA operations for fiscal 2015 are all on lawmakers’ immediate to-do list — in between more briefings on the situation in Iraq and other overseas threats. 'Fixing the VA will be a daunting task' It went well beyond 'daunting' decades back! As the Country served continues to not demand they Sacrifice especially as to the flag waving 'patriotic' wars the few are sent into! Those served quickly ignore the many costly issues related to those wars and are long lasting results from! The Shinseki VA, with help from this entire Executive Branch, finally started addressing these long ignored issues while addressing the needs of the present, two long wars, Veterans ignored during the previous Administrations especially the just previous, they don't make the budgets needed Congress does and they serve the greater 99%, flag waving, public served! Sen. Bernie Sanders told Conservatives: “If you can’t afford to take care of your veterans, than don’t go war. These people are bearing the brunt of what war is about, We have a moral obligation to support them.” February, 26th, 2014 We who've served, those serving and will continue doing so, don't served the private sector corporation, they now have their own extremely expensive merc army, that's even part of intelligence gathering community, that they don't pay for we do. We serve the Country and it's Constitution, the whole Country, who's responsibility is the Veterans Administration agency! 'Congress May Spend More On The Benghazi Panel Than On The Veterans Affairs Committee' Keep in mind all that's already been spent on the many House Benghazi kangaroo hearings!! USN All Shore '67-'71 GMG3 Vietnam In Country '70-'71 - Independent**
Jim Starowicz July 16, 2014 at 07:48 AM
And Who Says Politics Doesn't Play From Within the Agencies to the Branches Especially to the Legislative to keep the costs, or create costly 'scandals', way down in the VA. Oh and they got Bonuses too!! While, once again and for decades, nothing was done by Congress to help the VA but the usual, underfunding or seeking cuts to the budgets and especially nothing by the conservative controlled congresses under the bushco, just as they, countries Poser Patriots and the Media, wanted while waging two long wars!! Prior too this present Executive and Veterans administrations: October 23, 2008 - And now VA investigators are trying to figure out if this one-time survey points to the likelihood that documents have been improperly destroyed for months or even years. "Whatever this problem is, it didn't just start in the last two weeks," said Dave Autry, a spokesman for Disabled American Veterans. "It'd be unreasonable to assume that. Who knows what's been destroyed." The documents, which didn't have duplicates at the VA, would have been critical in deciding veteran pension and disability claims. As a result, many veterans are asking whether their delayed or denied claims were affected by lost paperwork. read more>>> Oct 16, 2008 - VA claims found in piles to be shredded October 24, 2008 - House panel will target VA shredding February 11, 2009 - Veterans' Claims Found in Shredder Bins ProPublica and The Seattle Times Nov. 9, 2012 - Lost to History: Missing War Records Complicate Benefit Claims by Iraq, Afghanistan Veterans "DeLara's case is part of a much larger problem that has plagued the U.S. military since the 1990 Gulf War: a failure to create and maintain the types of field records that have documented American conflicts since the Revolutionary War." Army Says War Records Gap Is Real, Launches Recovery Effort The War On Military Records 12/10/2013 - The era of big data has arrived on the battlefield and we need to find new ways to deal with it. USN All Shore '67-'71 GMG3 Vietnam In Country '70-'71 - Independent**
jkilmon July 16, 2014 at 01:35 PM
The current "don't do anything because we hate a black president" congress loves to scream "Obama did it" concerning the problems with the VA. These are the bills that the Republicans voted down or blocked in this congress: The Veterans Care Act Wounded Veteran Job Security Act Veterans Retraining Act Homeless Veterans Reintegration Program Disabled Veterans Home Improvement Act Veteran Business Center Act and also additional funding for the VA to handle the increased number of wounded.

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