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Report exonerates Tampa VA in covert camera case

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Report exonerates Tampa VA in covert camera case

By Matt Grant. CREATED Apr 12, 2013 - UPDATED: Apr 13, 2013

CAPE CORAL, Fla. - The Veterans Affairs Inspector General released its findings into the James A. Haley Veterans Hospital clearing the facility of wrongdoing.

The Tampa VA came under fire last year for their decision to install a hidden camera, disguised as a smoke detector, in a veteran's room without the family's knowledge or permission.

Last year, the Tampa VA admitted installing a camera hidden in a smoke detector to monitor Joseph Carnegie, 81, a brain damaged Korean War veteran.

"It's not a hidden camera," a hospital official insisted last summer.

But according to a new report by the VA Inspector General, it was a hidden camera.

The report cites several e-mails where a director writes: "Is it possible for a hidden camera to be placed in the room?" In another e-mail, the director stresses the camera be "hidden" saying: "We don't want the family to know that they are being videotaped."

The report concludes the camera's use was "reasonable" because staff thought the family was "deliberately interfering" with nursing care "creating small sabotage situations so they can document incompetent care." The family denies that.

"It's untrue. It's a blatant lie," said Carnegie's daughter, Natalie. "I'm utterly disappointed and shocked at the fact that they audaciously blamed the family."

The Carnegie's, who now live in Atlanta, say a maintenance worker tipped them off about the camera which the VA's own chief of police disagreed with writing in an e-mail: "It will give the impression of concealment/covert recordings which has other legal consequences."

Carnegie says she's outraged by the report and feels it disrespects her father.

"It's like spitting in his face," said Carnegie. "And spitting in our faces over and over again."

According to the report, of the 178 VA facilities nationwide, none are using covert cameras.

"They basically put the blame solely on the family," said Dan Ashby, with the National Coalition for Patriots. "And it absolutely makes no sense whatsoever."

Ashby took his step-son Corey Kent out of the Tampa VA in 2010 after describing filthy conditions. His immediate reaction to the report was "disgust," he said.

"I am very disappointed in the system," said Ashby. "The Va says we can do pretty much anything we want and nothing's really going to happen."

The IG report recommends the VA create a policy addressing the use of covert surveillance cameras that would include public notification, informed consent and approval before cameras are installed.

Matt Grant
mgrant@fox4now.com

Follow me on Twitter @MattGrantFox4