Why Was Privacy Breached at VAC?

By Jeff Rose-Martland-THE HILL TIMES-October 18 2010

Amidst revelations of privacy breaches in Veterans Affairs, there is one question no one in government is asking: why?

We know that several veterans had their medical details spread around VA to people without legitimate need to know. We know that the targets of these breeches—Sean Bruyea, Pat Stogran, and Louise Richard—were lobbying for increased benefits for veterans and/or those opposed to the New Veterans Charter. We know that these disclosures went all the way to deputy and Cabinet ministers. We know that these departmental executives should have reprimanded staff for breeching privacy and that this never happened. This implies that the executives were at least complicit, and that they may have requested or used this information.

Why would anyone want to look into a medical file? What else is in those files?

All three victims suffer from mental conditions as a result of their service. Those facts would also be in medical records, likely along with symptoms, effects, emotional triggers and other psychological data. Without referencing the victims, let’s ponder how such information might be used.

Here’s one way: suggestions that these individuals may be unreliable because of their conditions. Psychological information can be used to discredit people.

Here’s another way psychological data could be used. This is far more sinister.

The investigation into these disclosures must go much further than checking privacy concerns. The facts of who accessed what are important, but what we really need to know is why.

Jeff Rose-Martland

St. John’s, Nfld.

(The author is a writer and the founder of OurDuty.org, a national citizens’ organization dedicated to ensuring veterans receive fair and timely benefits).