In The News
June 5, 2023

#IntegrityFirst: Senator Grassley Fights For Veterans’ Privacy
Benjamin Krause | 

Senator Grassley demands answers from the Department of Veterans Affairs following inaction in a potential privacy breach investigation impacting veterans and whistleblowers in the VIEWS system.

A demand letter from Sen. Chuck Grassley’s office Friday demanded answers about possible “wrongdoing” in a “major breach of public trust” under VA Chief of Staff (COS) Tanya Bradsher.

Bradsher’s confirmation process is underway at the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs. She was nominated to serve as the deputy secretary, replacing the recently resigned Donald Remy, who lasted under two years in that position. She is responsible for oversight of a computer system called VA Integrated Enterprise Workflow Solution (VIEWS). The Office of Special Counsel (OSC) ordered VA and Bradsher to investigate allegations of a “potential data breach” after an OSC finding of a “substantial likelihood of wrongdoing” implicating VIEWS.

Since OSC ordered VA to complete an investigation into VIEWS and its usage ten months ago, VA has repeatedly delayed releasing the investigation results, and numerous whistleblowers believe VA failed to address the alleged breaches fully.

According to VIEWS literature from the vendor responsible for implementing the Salesforce system at VA, Chief of Staff Bradsher is presently the responsible party.

The inquiry from Sen Grassley is based on the results of a detailed VIEWS audit by a VA-certified fraud investigator.

Sen Grassley’s inquiry letter was filed two days after the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs opened its confirmation process for COS Bradsher to become the next VA deputy secretary.

A recent audit of the agency’s whistleblower litigation found the agency has enjoyed destroying whistleblowers, allowing a successful settlement outcome less than 1% of the time when retaliation is alleged.

Odds are COS Bradsher will get confirmed because most stakeholders like her despite being overwhelmingly underqualified for either role. VA and Bradsher’s supporters are rolling out a public relations campaign to garner support for Bradsher’s nomination to spin her lack of experience.

Read the full article HERE.

Nice Is Good, But Can VA Deputy Secretary Nominee Be Mean When Needed?
Benjamin Krause | 

The VIEWS scandal was reported to VA chief of staff Tanya Bradsher last year, but privacy violating whistleblower and veteran document sharing has not been resolved. Congress cannot seem to figure out how agency leaders are circumventing investigations.

Ahem. The data is all available in VIEWS. It is not being properly protected.

The biggest is the forthcoming VA VIEWS report of the investigation initiated by the Office of Special Counsel (OSC). Short for VA Integrated Enterprise Workflow Solution (VIEWS), the system serves as a correspondence management system under the authority of the Chief of Staff, presently Tanya Bradsher.

Whistleblowers provided evidence suggesting some VA leaders used a system of records called VIEWS to circumvent lawsuit discovery obligations, Freedom of Information Act and Privacy Act requests, and whistleblower investigations by Congress.

Certified fraud examiner turned VA whistleblower Peter Rizzo complained to OSC about major privacy breaches implicating VIEWS. Rizzo said he found “incredible and unconscionable mishandling of VA employee and Veterans’ personally identifiable (“PII”), personal health information (“PHI”), and details of whistleblower disclosures.

Confidential information shared by members of Congress was collated into VIEWS without appreciable safety guards to ensure confidential communications remained confidential.

Basically, if a person complained to a member of Congress, Senator A would communicate with VA about the matter in an attempt to resolve the issue. Usually, sensitive information would be shared with the point of contact at VA.

Rather than the data remaining confidential, it would end up in VIEWS where the senior leader being complained about could review the materials informally and take action against the whistleblower while appearing to be an independent act.

When attorneys or veterans request copies of their records under FOIA, Privacy Act, or in discovery, agency attorneys fail to produce records from VIEWS, including unique documents created by and within the VIEWS system that are unique.

The instances of failure to comply with FOIA, PA, or discovery likely number in the hundreds of thousands since the VIEWS system was implemented.

However, “Today, almost 11 months later, Ms. Bradsher has failed to close cavernous security gaps in VIEWS, leaving employees and Veterans at incredible risk.”

“Through her inaction, she has ignored pleas from whistleblowers to protect their data, and has not been forthcoming with Congress, veteran service organizations, VA employees, or the public about the potential damage VIEWS has caused and may cause in the future.”

Read the full article HERE.