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Veterans' group accuses VA of "cover up" over covert cameras

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Veterans' group accuses VA of "cover up" over covert cameras

By Matt Grant. CREATED Sep 27, 2012 - UPDATED: Sep 27, 2012

FORT MYERS, Fla. - A local veterans group is criticizing the Department of Veterans Affairs, accusing them of covering up their use of covert cameras, a week after a top official testified before Congress.

Lawmakers on Capitol Hill are continuing to look into a story we first told you about involving the Tampa VA using a camera hidden inside a smoke detector to covertly monitor Joseph Carnegie, 80, a brain damaged veteran.

The family says it was installed without their knowledge or permission.

At a media tour of Cape Coral's new VA facility nobody wanted to touch the troubles at the Tampa VA.

"I really have no comment about what's going on in Tampa," said Keith Neeley, the assistant director of the Bay Pines VA. "

We asked if the Cape Coral VA could use similar covert-style cameras to monitor patients.

"Certainly not something we think is relevant to the opening of this facility," said Neeley. "Whatever we do is in the best interest of the patients."

Last week, a top VA official defended the covert camera before Congress, insisting a camera placed in a smoke detector isn't "hidden," arguing it was necessary to monitor Carnegie's health.

"Our number one priority is safety and security of patients," said Veterans Affairs Deputy Secretary W. Scott Gould, "and we accomplished that with that camera."

"Your testimony that this is an appropriate way to monitor a patient, why was that camera taken down?," asked Rep. Jeff Miller.

"Well the patient had transferred to another facility," said Gould.

That line - about the camera coming down because Carnegie was transferring - wasn't true. The camera was removed before Carnegie left after increased pressure from his family.

Gould admitted the relationship between staff and Carnegie's family was "strained" over the camera.

"It's just one inaccuracy after another," said Dan Ashby with the National Coalition for Patriots. "Trying to cover up what really happened."

Ashby has been critical of the Tampa VA since 2010. He feels the VA is trying to hide what happened.

"I think they're making excuses," said Ashby. "Nobody wants to take responsibility for what happened."

Congress is looking into the matter.

Matt Grant
mgrant@fox4now.com