Since coming forward in 2008, as a witness for a former co-worker who was being harassed — in order to help her stop the harassment — I have been continuously harassed, punished, and retaliated against by the same people who protected the perpetrator. When I came forward that day in 2008, I thought there were laws that protected me. I utterly had no idea that such a simple gesture, like caring for the dignity of another human-being, would have such severe and far reaching negative consequences. What is and has been happening to me is unethical and illegal. Not only is it a breach of privacy, but it is also a breach of trust. It is a disgrace when the very people who defend the rights of the American people do not have those same rights at the VA, particularly the right to have our private information protected from the people who we do not want to access our private information. As a veteran using the VA system, I recently discovered that I have absolutely no control over my private and protected information, and that VA managers have carte blanche to everything with impunity! Anyone who has access to VBMS with a few strokes of the keyboard can view over 30 years of information about me, from anywhere in the country, including from someone’s living room. No person, not even a government official, should have that much access to so much information about a person’s past and present life history, especially VA employees who are known to be unscrupulous. No manager or former manager or co-worker should have access to so much information about their employees or co-workers, especially the people who are responsible for forcing my resignation and who I testified against for protecting the man who I witnessed harassing a co-worker. What I say to my doctor is no one else’s business unless they absolutely have to view the information and were authorized to view the information. It is my right to see who has accessed my private information and it is my right to restrict who sees my information. It is incomprehensible to think the VBA failed to build in safeguards in its highly touted computer program, which was allegedly designed to make processing veterans’ claims more efficient, but cannot restrict certain VBMS users from accessing specific claim files, except through antiquated security system that was designed to control paper files. This antiquated security system allowed and continues to allow people, like my former managers and co-workers, access to my protected information. It also allows managers and employees to snoop on current VA veteran employees and co-workers.
Every veteran has a right to know, in a timely manner, who has been viewing their private information and why. There must be an enforceable law to deter people from accessing a veteran’s C-file without first having authorization or permission by the veteran. Congress can pass a law that make each veteran a watchdog over their own C-file by releasing unredacted audits of their C-file immediately upon request and whenever requested. Audit logs could be readily accessed at any time via the eBenefits portal, which would show the veteran via live coverage, who is and has been viewing their protected information. A tracking system similar to the United States Postal System. Congress should pass a law that require the reporting of privacy violations to be made easy and efficient, as well as, hold VA managers and employees accountable for privacy violations. Congress should pass a law that make sure VBMS and any other VA computer system has functional and accurate audit logs that can accurately pinpoint security violations.
Jamie Fox is a whistleblower, who reported harassment of a co-worker and suffered retaliation while working in the Oakland VA Regional Office (#OaklandVARO). Her former managers and co-workers, responsible for protecting the perpetrator, weaponized Jamie’s C-file so they could further inflict more revenge. They used their government positions for personal use and no one has been held accountable.