VA defends covert camera, testifies before Congress
Photo: Video by fox4now.com
CAPE CORAL, Fla. - The deputy director of the US Department of Veterans Affairs faced tough questions from lawmakers last week as the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs continues to investigate the Tampa VA's use of covert cameras.
"It would have been better served to repeatedly rape us," said Michael Coleman, describing how he felt violated when he found out his father-in-law had been secretly videotaped.
The VA installed a camera hidden inside a smoke detector to covertly record 80-year-old Joseph Carnegie, a brain damaged Korean War veteran.
His family says the camera was installed without their permission or knowledge.
The issue is now the subject of a Congressional investigation.
"I want to talk specifically about a video camera that was hidden inside of a smoke detector," said Rep. Jeff Miller (R-Pensacola), chairman of the House Veterans' Affairs committee at a hearing last Thursday.
"We do not believe the camera was hidden," countered VA Deputy Director W. Scott Gould. "We believe that the family was informed."
But the family insists they were only told after the smoke detector camera was installed and only after they confronted staff.
On Capitol Hill, Gould testified the camera was necessary to monitor Carnegie's fragile condition.
"This patient that was comatosed and on a ventilator," said Gould, "had to be watched."
At the family's request, Carnegie was transferred to the VA in Atlanta, so he could be closer to home. Before he left, the VA took down the covert camera after the family complained to Fox 4.
"If it is your testimony that it is an appropriate way to monitor a patient why was the camera taken down?," asked Miller.
"Well, the patient has transferred to another facility," said Gould.
"Prior the transfer the camera was removed," countered Miller.
"There's no doubt in my mind that front-line staff were under extraordinary stress," said Gould, "that relationships between the family and the front-line medical staff were strained."
The family says they felt retaliated against after they spoke out.
Miller says he will "agree to disagree" with Gould saying he didn't know why the camera was hidden in the first place.
"I guess common sense where I come from," said Miller, "would say just put a camera. If you're going to put a camera up [put it] where people can see it. For some reason somebody made the decision to hide the camera."
Reached by phone, Carnegie's family says the VA's response demonstrates a lack of accountability.