VA Hospital Forcing Patients to Use Facebook and Twitter

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What sexual favors were exchanged for this to happen?

Reader JTM forwarded this message:

Greetings Secure Message Participants,

Over the past few years we have kept you current with health care news, events, and activities by providing Healthy Living updates through Secure Message. In the near future these Healthy Living updates will no longer be sent through Secure Message, they will be communicated from our Bay Pines VAHCS Public Affairs Office using Twitter and Facebook (please look at attachment to assist you with accessing Facebook and Twitter). The reason for the change is that Secure Message does not reach all of the Veterans we provide care to.

This change will not affect your normal use of Secure Message between you and your Healthcare team.

Thank you for understanding and appreciate your participation with My HealtheVet.

If you have any questions or concerns please send us a Secure Message by selecting “Ask_A_My HealtheVet Website?” or call us at 727-398-6661 X15464.

Karen C. Jones
My HealtheVet Program Admin. Assistant

Stuart Murdock
My HealtheVet Program Coordinator

The phone number above checks out. I hope vets and better yet, the local press, object vociferously to this policy.

JTM’s comment:

Must use twitter and facebook now. I don’t use either. Lots of other ex-GIs too, especially the homeless ones…

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  1. Mary Carson

    Or, VA dispersing health twaddle via another source so vets stop putting the “your appointment is Thursday & you haven’t come in for your lab tests yet” messages in the trash, unread.
    I’ve had the VA doc ask me if SO would be likely to respond to VA email promptly or should he be added to the “be sure you call him” list.

  2. TSA

    Why? Why is this such a Ridiculously Obvious Scam that it needed an article and invitation to protest?

    First, it seems as though the VA already was providing events & activity info via e-mail (or an obscenely over-funded equivalent), so they forced people to have computer access.Paper mailings may have appeal for those unfamiliar with the internet, but it’s not clear if that’s still an option or not.

    Second, all of the information on FB and twitter can be read without creating an account, if it’s set up correctly. So, it has the same functionality as a public website, is easier to keep updated, and still doesn’t require any personal info to access.

    As for homeless vets, this change could actually help. As the VA mentions, whatever “Secure Message” service they use doesn’t reach as far as they’d like. Since they’re trying to promote maximum access, the public website (FB/Twitter) doesn’t require any login, so there’s no PW to remember just to access current events.

    So, in short, it keeps the direct message system for talking to medical staff, and makes the current events stuff easier to access.

    1. Lambert Strether

      First, a public agency forcing people to use a private service sets a very bad precedent. What public form of communication gets abolished next? HHS regulations? IRS? Why not?

      Second, your second point reinforces this:

      it has the same functionality as a public website, is easier to keep updated, and still doesn’t require any personal info to access.

      Assuming this is true, which I don’t, you’re arguing for privatizing all one-way government->public communications services. If you are not, please indicate where you draw the line.

      Third, the post doesn’t talk about paper, at all. I don’t understand your point, there.

      I don’t know enough about Facebook and Twitter to know if their pages can be set up to allow universal public access without an account. What I can tell is that Bay Pines hasn’t done this:

      (That’s with my VPN. Maybe other readers can test. Here’s the URL:

      1. 3.14e-9

        Lambert, I can access the FB page without signing in, although there’s a pop-up that wants you to log in, and if you don’t, it keeps popping up and covers half the screen. I signed in so that I could compare it to Twitter.

        Twitter is no problem. I didn’t sign in, and the posts are much easier to read than FB anyway, because it’s a much cleaner format. The posts are pretty much the same on both sites. Many of them aren’t specific to Bay Pines but are general VA notices, e.g., a link to the HepC article I mentioned in my long comment below. There are some differences in their re-posts, but those don’t appear to be vital info.

        Bay Pines also has a website, with a calendar of events that is more complete than either Twitter or FB, which appears not to have posted an event since March. The website also has a field where you can sign up for email updates.

        My question is, what have vets in the Bay Pines service area been receiving via “secure messaging” (I’m wondering whether that’s even accurate) that is specific to Bay Pines — e.g., upcoming local events. I don’t get anything like that from my VA medical center at all. It sounds like they might have had a service above and beyond the rest of the system. And, as I explained at length below, there’s an option to get the “healthy living” articles via an email newsletter.

        Secure messaging is used to communicate directly with one’s providers. I’ve been using my online account for nearly four years, and not ONCE have I received a message via secure messaging that wasn’t a personal message to me, from one of my doctors or group leaders. The “healthy living” articles are on the homepage when I sign in. Getting to secure messaging requires a few additional clicks. BUT, as I also mentioned below, you don’t even have to sign in to get the articles. And, according to the message from Bay Pines quoted above, vets will continue to have secure messaging to contact their practitioners.

        Without knowing what has been taken away from vets using Bay Pines that hasn’t been available at all in other regions, I can’t say for sure, but after poking around for an hour or so, it doesn’t appear to me that FB and Twitter are the sole sources of information that can’t be easily found on the Bay Pines website or at MyHealtheVet. I’d like to hear more from JTM about what’s going on before making a definitive statement.

        1. JTMcPhee

          Come down to Bay Pines and look at the ‘served’ population. Yes, most have portable communicators, but not all. Many are vets of “older” wars and look not to be “computer literate,” let alone have access to new modes of distribution, or awareness that more and more of the VA operations and programs are being privatized, shrunk and crapified following the modern “new, improved” models. We all die, eventually, so the “deadwood” gets cleared out — some dying sooner than they would otherwise, maybe, ever fewer WW II and Korean vets, and my Vietnam contingent is aging out or suiciding, one way or another. Some of us can navigate the various web sites and systems with some facility. Others, less “sophisticated,” not so much.

          I have little knowledge about what’s provided to vets elsewhere than Bay Pines, so can’t speak too much to that. But I know from reading in the vetspace literature, and following stories here and elsewhere, that the invisible “budget” knives are being sharpened to cut deeper into the substance of what is available and being done for/to vets generally. “Thank you for your service (to the Empire to which I am oblivious, says the citizen) for Keeping Our Country Free (to do whatever the rulers and owners decide to do to further their interests.) But you will now be getting vouchers, to be seen by doctors in that thing called “the private sector,” who swim in an alien sea of profit and billing codes and practice management groups. So long, and thanks for all the fish!”

          I “luckily” qualify for VA dental care (not all vets do) and was “sent out” to a private guy who did a less than competent job. Maybe that’s endemic to crapified everything, just some inevitable devolution. But maybe the documented failures of “care” within the VA system (as with so much else in the overall “safety net,” which I guess, in many people’s minds, is there to “catch only worthy people who fall” on their ladder-climbing quest for Galtian heights) are due to a systematic slow-motion demolition of the agency and its functions, via decades of hypocritical politics — “Support Our Troops” but cut the budgets for, and steadily demorallize, the workers comp program for damaged War Workers that is what the VA largely is.

          I sort of regret I offered this tidbit to NC without a lot of context added, given the various experiences and competences people have in interacting with VA as a system. The comments to this post show how good intentions oft go astray. But this little thing is not an aberration in isolation — it’s indicative of what is being done throughout the political economy, the looting, and depersonalization, and walling off via computerization, leading to having remote-reading “chips” stuck under out skin, and algos running things behind code that nobody understands and that can, mirabile dictu, modify itself to “extend” itself.

          Bay Pines, as an aside, does have some problems. One is pretty common to other VA facilities, I believe, the usual failure of a billion-dollar outsource to develop a computer system to handle patient medical records and treatment information and stuff. VA has several “legacy” systems that this “new improved” thingie was to connect and render “interoperable” as they say. Here is a VA Inspector General report that describes what has been discussed here many times — what to do with klunky COBOL and other main-function code and the people who use it to make anything at all work to serve the nominal function:

          “Issues at VA Medical Center Bay Pines, Florida and Procurement and Deployment of the Core Financial and Logistics System (CoreFLS)”

          Here’s a more recent, squishier Inspector General report on care issues: Does not go at problems of delays in and quality of service very much. One common complaint I have seen is about the psychiatry services. The treatment is maybe a couple of sessions, followed by prescriptions for potent psychotropics with bad side effects for many, and chart notations that “patient is non-compliant” for not continuing to show up for ineffectual “analysis” and not continuing to ingest those ineffective meds.

          And following the zeitgeist with respect to policing, there’s this from Bay Pines too: “Former worker says Bay Pines VA harassed him for not spying,”
          There was actually some attention given to the waste and fraud stuff surrounding this easy-to-anticipate re-computerization failure. A couple of our elected representatives “expressed dismay” and “held hearings” to demonstrate that they could ask softball questions and accept BS answers, as part of the extend-and-pretend rope-a-dope theater that is a big part of the visible Imperial legislative process.

          We vets are lucky that somewhere within the organization, there are gnomes who can kludge and patch code stuff together, so there is some kind of “continuity of care.” And people using the terminals who are willing to log on many times a day when it all goes down, in one of its bits, and still have the esprit de corps to try to provide care. There are people like them, we should also be so thankful, in the rest of the “medical UNsurance and billing system” who also struggle to keep it all together and have a bit of Florence Nightingale in their personas enough to provide actual health care…

          1. 3.14e-9

            So glad to hear from you, Mr. McPhee.

            Reports from around the country make it clear that some VA medical facilities are managed much better than others. We’ve had our share of scandals here in the Seattle area, and while I’m overall happy with the level of care I’ve received here, there have been a couple of notable exceptions. And I don’t have dental or eye coverage, which is a big issue when you’re over 60.

            Still, what I get is free of charge, and that includes visits under the Choice program, which so far have gone well. The care has been top-notch, and it didn’t require much from me other than signing a few additional forms – the kind of stuff typically required when you go to a facility for the first time or see a new doctor.

            I do worry that the Choice program is the proverbial camel’s nose in the tent. For obvious reasons, the insurance companies want their greedy hands on the VA’s healthcare budget. This is the REAL privatization issue. The VA’s consideration of closing facilities (link in a comment below) is a further very bad sign.

            That said, it’s not a given that it will be all negative. The small city on the East Coast that I’m considering moving to just got a new, expanded VA clinic. The old one was in a space leased from a local hospital and wasn’t big enough to handle the increasing demand for services. The new lease is in a formerly empty building, one of the many shells created as corporations merged and relocated offshore. I don’t know everything about it, but on the face of it, this hardly seems like “crapification.”

            All of the above notwithstanding, this article isn’t about any of that. It’s about one VA medical center shifting some of its announcements to Facebook and Twitter. As I’ve pointed out elsewhere, both have the same posts, and vets can access the Twitter feed without creating an account, so harping on FB is pointless. Besides that, there is a website with a detailed calendar of events, plus the option to receive the “healthy living” articles by email, which has been the case all along for anyone who even considers them worth reading.

            As far as I can tell, the change announced in the message you received affects ONLY those who have a MyHealtheVet account; i.e., people who ALREADY are using the Internet. I don’t know how to state it more clearly. This is not about forcing older vets or anyone not inclined to use a computer to start doing so. Nor does it change the MyHealtheVet program, which is available to vets everywhere. To recap, that program consists of a password-protected account that allows veterans to access their health records online, refill prescriptions, etc., and a secure-messaging system for communicating directly with their doctors.

            It would be helpful to know exactly what information Bay Pines has been sending to vets through MyHealtheVet that is no longer going to be sent. I tried calling to ask, but got bounced around in their voicemail system and gave up. The only thing that makes any sense is that they have been announcing local activities such as those in recent Twitter posts. All other VA information is still coming through MyHealtheVet.

            To be clear, I am NOT saying that there isn’t crapification in the VA system, that attempts to slide into privatization aren’t alarming, or that large populations of veterans aren’t being neglected and left to die. I AGREE WITH ALL THAT. My argument is with the claim that one hospital’s decision to stop sending information to vets via their online accounts that is nice to have but not mission-critical, and to refer those who might still want it to FB and Twitter, constitutes privatization of a public service and discrimination against vets without access to a computer.

            This seems to be a case of jumping to conclusions before getting all the details. It’s not hard to see how folks who have read and heard over and over in the legacy media that the Russians are “hacking our democracy” so readily accept every new puff of smoke as proof of a fire and respond with blank stares when presented with facts. It’s good to be reminded of this from time to time, so don’t regret passing along the message. Besides, it easily could have been a real cause for concern and might well be, the next time.

            1. flora

              If I may: “Still, what I get is free of charge, ” Not so. You paid for this service with the dearest coin you have – the offer to sacrifice life and limb for your country with your military service.

              1. flora

                Adding: public-private “Choice” programs (school, low income housing, VA health care, city water supplies, etc.) always seem to go well initially to set the mental framework that privatization is good. It’s later on, when the mindset has already been established that privatization is either good or at least not bad, that greed and the destructive worms set in. imo.

                1. 3.14e-9

                  Yes, that’s a big concern, especially if and when it gets to the point that vets have to start paying higher out-of-pocket expenses.

                  Besides that, Congress can change the rules when the current program extension runs out. For now, there are eligibility criteria that limit the use of the program.

                2. flora

                  “The fog comes in
                  on little cat feet .”
                  – Carl Sandburg

                  So does neoliberal destruction.

              2. 3.14e-9

                Thanks, flora. Actually, I was quite lucky not to have actually deployed, although my unit did come close once. And, like many young people, I joined because my family was poor, and my options were severely limited. If not for enlisting, I wouldn’t have gotten a college degree.

                In any case, VA health services are based on income, so some vets who put their lives on the line far more than I did are charged co-pays for some services.

      2. JL

        Lambert, what’s your opinion on local governments putting important notices in a newspaper?

        1. JTMcPhee

          I bet you know how local government works — rendering things “legal” because zoning changes and public works contracts and stuff like that get “noticed” in the local papers. My area, the government is run pretty much of, by and for developers and commercial interests. Keeping up with the Bezzle and Grift is hard enough to do, certainly the “reporters” and editorialists for the local papers have no interest in doing what we older mopes imagined the 4th estate was doing for us…

      3. Wisdom Seeker

        “First, a public agency forcing people to use a private service sets a very bad precedent.”

        Umm… in addition to government notices having been printed in private newspapers for centuries, there’s also a wide range of publicly funded schools (which are also public agencies…) requiring students to use private services (e.g. Google Classroom) for classwork. Which means those children are very likely being digitally profiled for future advertising exploitation. (Even if the legal language says otherwise… how would you know?)

        But I agree with the principle. The VA shouldn’t have to rely on someone else’s platform to deliver their information to their patients and the public, and that delivery should occur without advertising, pressure to create an account on someone else’s service, or any risk of personal data being harvested by a private party.

        P.S. for 3.14e-9: “although there’s a pop-up that wants you to log in, and if you don’t, it keeps popping up and covers half the screen.”

        Umm that’s not “access without signing in”. “Access without signing in” would allow all site visitors to have the same experience, regardless of whether they signed in or not. What you describe is user harassment.

        1. lyman alpha blob

          Comparing Facebook to a newspaper is apples to oranges – I can read the newspaper without subscribing, the newspaper company has no idea if I read it or not and my privacy is still intact.

          My kid just started having to have a google account in her elementary school class this year which pisses me off to no end for the reasons you describe. They even have her uploading her picture and perhaps there was an email sent which I missed but other than that nobody asked me if it was OK. Whoever thought using this obscene data-mining company in the classroom was a good idea should be taken out back and drawn and quartered.

          1. JL

            I personally find the Twitter experience pretty reasonable without logging in.

            Since you care about the data Google collects on users, I presume you’ve seen You can turn off pretty much all of it.

            Disclaimer: I work for Google, but not on anything related to users, so I don’t really know what’s there other than stuff I’ve turned off on my own account.

        2. 3.14e-9

          Wisdom Seeker … The FB popup is annoying, but you can get rid of it by hitting “no thanks” when it prompts you to sign in. You just have to keep doing it.

          You’re right, of course, that it isn’t an acceptable way to get info on an ongoing basis, but when an alternative is offered that doesn’t require creating an account and is easier to read, I don’t see that anyone has a valid complaint — especially when informing vets about local events via their password-protected online accounts appears to be a service that Bay Pines is/was offering their vets that other regions don’t have; in other words, it’s not a federal program that is being “privatized.” Without knowing what that information is/was, I can’t comment further.

        3. Yves Smith Post author

          Ahem, your reasoning is pretty spurious.

          First, the reason for publishing notice in papers (and they would also often be posted in public spaces) was that that was the only broad-based communications medium at the time.

          Bay Pines already has a functioning e-mail system that it uses to reach vets. It beggars belief that FB or Twitter would reach more vets. The barrier would presumably be internet access, which this does not solve,

          Second, the VA is subject to FOIA. Having records on FB and Twitter impedes responding to FOIA. For instance, it would be much easier to destroy records on FB or Twitter than on an intranet, since there are usually backups or other footprints of the previous existence of said records.

          Third, why should FB and Twitter be rewarded with more traffic and more user snooping in light of 1? I certainly don’t know how to access FB without having an account; a friend generously lets me use his on those about 1x a month occasions where a reader sends me a link to something I can view only on FB. I’m at the mercy of him changing his password. I won’t create an account on FB and suspect given the size of the vet population, there are some vets who feel the same way I do.

  3. JCC

    Yves, your lead sentence, “What sexual favors were exchanged for this to happen?”, was perfect!

    The reason for the change is that Secure Message does not reach all of the Veterans we provide care to.

    Not only is it crappy english grammar, but if Secure Messaging doesn’t reach all of the Veterans, then how do they expect these people to get Farcebook or Twitter accounts?

  4. 3.14e-9

    I’m not sure what this is referring to. I have secure messaging through MyHealtheVet (that’s “Health-e,” as in “healthy,” not “Heal the Vet,” although that would be good, too).

    With an MHV account, vets can access all of their health records, calendar of upcoming appointments, medications, and other info. With a premium account, you can refilll prescriptions online, which is a huge benefit for me, because going to the VA Medical Center takes at least two hours each way. The premium account is free, but you have to sign up at a VA facility, show ID, and I forget what else. It took me about 45 minutes to get it set up.

    You need a premium account to access secure messaging, which is used to send and receive messages to/from your provider, since they don’t give out staff emails. So, for example, if a med has no more refills, I can secure-message my doctor and ask her to submit a refill request to the pharmacy. It’s way faster than calling the pharmacy and being put on interminable hold. AFAIK, this is the only purpose of secure messaging.

    When you sign in to your account, the homepage has articles on “healthy living.” I’m wondering if these are what JTM’s message from Bay Pines is about. When you click on a link, you get something like this:

    Vets also have the option of getting the articles delivered via email newsletter. I just got one today, with articles on HepC, stroke, postpartum depression, and asthma. The articles typically are pretty dry — the kind of info you can find yourself on WebMD, although often they include statistics related specifically to veterans. At the bottom of the newsletter, there’s a note with a link to a webpage in case of difficulty reading the email:

    When you click on the link, it goes back to the the MHV homepage.

    If this is what the message JTM received is referring to, I can’t imagine why Bay Pines is saying you have to go to Twitter or Facebook. As you can see, you don’t even need to be signed into an account to access the articles. The purpose of the account is for managing personal information — and, obviously, you do need to have a computer or a mobile app for that. The alternative is to physically go to the VA medical center.

    The secure messaging thing has me totally baffled, for the reason mentioned above. The only thing I can think of is that maybe Bay Pines posts local events or announcements on the sign-in page for vets in their service area? My VA doesn’t, and even if they did, I wouldn’t be interested.

    I double-checked my email and also signed in to my account to look for a message like the one JTM received, but I found nothing. JTM, please tell me if I’m missing something. And if I can help find more info, of course I’m happy to do that.

    1. Jack

      I use MyhealtheVet all the time as well.Good description of how it works. What I have found that is that every VA facility does things somewhat differently, even though they have the same access to all the tools. For instance, in Columbia, SC they use secure messaging and if you contact your Doctor, etc. they will usually get back to you same day. At the White River Junction, VT VA hospital they never look at it. There, everything is done by phone. All of the info that the VA sends out is pretty vanilla anyway, and as you say you can get it from WebMD. I never read that stuff.

      1. 3.14e-9

        That’s interesting. Thanks, Jack. I’m thinking of moving back to the East Coast and am somewhat anxious about whether I’ll have the same level of care I’ve had here in the Seattle area.

        My doctors usually get back to me in a day or two via secure messaging. Maybe it also has to do with the individual doctors? I’ve had a couple of exceptional ones here, better than most I’ve been to in private practice.

  5. ArkansasAngie

    As a VSO (Veteran Service Organization), I can say staying in contact with veterans can be difficult. If providing info on FB helps, then … it isn’t a bad thing

    I’d bet that Mr Murdock is going to be dismayed by your reaction here.

    I’d suggest giving him a call.

    1. clinical wasteman

      If something like that helps some of the veterans who were using the service, then sure, it isn’t a bad thing to offer it as an extra option.
      But at least as I understood the announcement, JT’s point was that the obnoxious part is the withdrawal of the ‘Secure Message’ updates on the grounds that FB/Twttr count as adequate replacement. (That’s “withdrawal” as in ‘will no longer be sent‘, skim readers.)
      If someone comes to you with an unwelcome “gift” and warns that if you refuse it you’ll lose something you already have and can’t do without, that’s coercion regardless of whether most of your peers would be delighted with the gift. Congratulations, Lucky Winner of a two-week tropical vacation! FINE PRINT: Lucky Winners who fail to check in for the vacation flight will be rounded up and detained by airport security for the full two weeks.
      The idea that no-FB veterans are Snowflakes (not hailstones?) because some people don’t even have email is head-spinning. It would even be funny, except that unlike the hypothetical example above, the following one is not only real, it has been played out 10s of thousands of times in the UK alone: Your apartment — in fact the entire formerly state-owned block — is unfit for human habitation. This is unacceptable. Therefore PLEASE LEAVE within three days so that the block can be knocked down and a cluster of shiny new hutches built on the site for part-rent-part-sale to people who can afford to pay twice.
      The excuse that ‘schools do this all the time’ is the same as calling the foregoing true story an excuse. Until 10 historical minutes ago English private schools used to allow older students to beat younger ones viciously with a stick (and to demand thanks from the beaten for the beating afterwards.) Those state schools that most closely mimick(ed) that diseducational model were — sorry, are — designated “the best”. Poor but “aspirational” parents still bankrupt themselves to get their kids the “benefit” of the latter-day variants on this sort of schooling. (Fluency in the caste behavioural codes it’s supposed to instil is known as “Social Skills” and is highly prized by Careers Counsellors and white-collar gangmasters, sometimes called “recruitment agencies”.) When the private sector flagellation and its state-school re-enactment were finally abolished by law a couple of decades back, it wouldn’t have helped to replace the stick with a Taser.
      All of which is a convoluted way of saying: insult is no more fitting as injury’s replacement than as its complement. Or: “HELP is a gift from someone who kicks down your door to make sure you get it” [].

      PS. Yes, Twitter has a more or less functional public read-only website, allowing anyone to read stuff from any profile. (FB less so, unless the non-FB-using ‘public’ are supposed to understand its various delightful ‘layers’ instinctively.) But wouldn’t that be one of the reasons for not wanting to receive anything even slightly personal in that format?

  6. jackiebass

    I as a relatively private person. I don’t want my personal life out in the public domaine. I refuse to do either Facebook or Twitter even though my kids have encouraged me to. I believe that theses social media things are a means to make it easier for the government to spy on it’s citizens. It also give businesses more information about me than I want them to have. There are many bad people out there and this makes it easier to do their dirty deeds. I believe that one of the Facebook founders was a former CIA employee. That alone makes me suspect.

    1. JCC

      The articicle states “The Department of Veterans Affairs is considering closing over 1,165 of its facilities as part of its plans to let more veterans receive medical care in the private sector…) when it should have stated “The Department of Veterans Affairs is considering closing over 1,165 of its facilities as part of its plans to force more veterans receive medical care in the private sector…”.

      My brother had to unexpectedly go to a hospital two days ago for an MRI. Twenty four hours later, most of that time spent on a gurney in a hallway, he got the MRI. Twelve hours later he is still there (this morning) waiting for the results.

      That MRI is going to cost him the cost of the machine plus two nights in a hospital and doctor’s fees… thanks to ObamaCare.

      So… great, let’s throw a few hundred thousand more people into an over-crowded and non-responsive system.

      What a load of crap this is all turning into.

  7. From Cold Mountain

    My local town government, and the board members, all mostly use only Facebook and Twitter to communicate to communicate with the constituents. To whit, they say “Representatives of the Town of xxx communicate via these Web pages. Consequently, any communication via these pages is subject to North Carolina public records law.

    The Public records law says “No public official may destroy, sell, loan, or otherwise dispose of any public record, except in accordance with G.S. 121 – 5 and G.S. 130A -99, without the consent of the Department of Natural and Cultural Resources. Whoever unlawfully removes a public record from the office where it is usually kept, or alters, defaces, mutilates or destroys it shall be guilty of a Class 3 misdemeanor and upon conviction only fined not less than ten dollars ($10.00) nor more than five hundred dollars ($500.00).

    How would one even know if they deleted a tweet? Do I have the power to get the deletion records from Twitter? What if Twitter “accidentally” loses the data? Do they have a local backup?

    If I cared enough I would sue them.

  8. Kronos

    I’m not sure snarkiness about homeless people getting on Twitter or Facebook is warranted. Homeless people also don’t access email and whatever “secure message” was. This was a knee-jerk reactionary piece. That’s all right. We are all in knee-jerk, reactionary modes. We all just need to get fidget spinners and chill for a while.

    1. From Cold Mountain

      I think you are missing the part that this is about privatizing a public service…

      1. Elizabeth Burton

        Younger vets are more likely to use Facebook and/or Twitter. Adding them to other online services as a means of communications makes sense. Look, I get it—a lot of people here hate social media. That’s fine. This constant outrage every time their names come up, though, is starting to look like what the Democrats do whenever they hear RUSSIA!!!!! and TRUMP!!!

        As for the privatization, that’s been happening for the last two decades, at least, starting with budget cuts, and is inevitable in the current climate unless we can put the breaks on the GOP/DINO Revolution. I doubt there are more than a few people who spend any amount of time at NC who don’t already know that, and who can see the signs quite clearly.

        1. clinical wasteman

          Constant outrage every time their name comes up“? I must have missed that part while reading the site every day for the last couple of years. Where else does anyone bother to make the distinctions that twttr can sometimes be useful whereas FB is a stitch-up from the outset, or that using FB doesn’t make the users idiots, especially when this sort of ‘soft’ coercion to use it is going on all the time?
          But in this case the point is hardly to do with those formats in particular at all: it’s about a public institution effectively even if not officially forcing people to use what are supposed to be discretionary consumer services, i.e. to Join In The Fun. Think: ‘optional’ workplace socializing and ‘team-building exercises’. Yes, there are worse things, but follow that principle a little way and see where you end up. If it had been the other way around — if ‘social media’ access to the service had been available but was discontinued and ‘Secure Message’ was made mandatory — the objection would be largely the same. (I was about to add: “except for the ‘privatization’ part”, but actually that seems moot, because how likely is it that the VA designed and manages ‘Secure Message’ entirely in-house, rather than with the monetized Help of outside IT contractors? Please correct that impression if wrong though.)

          1. 3.14e-9

            No one is being “forced” to do anything — well, except that if you want secure messaging, you have to set up a MyHealtheVet account, and to do that, you have to physically go to a VA facility, show your ID, and prove that you’re really you.

            MyHealtheVet is an online account to manage health records, refill prescriptions online, etc. To access secure messaging, you have to sign into your MHV account first. There is no other way to do it. Secure messaging is limited to corresponding with one’s doctor (nurse, group facilitator) about MEDICAL issues. In fact, the system lets you communicate ONLY with providers that you’re currently seeing. If you change doctors, the name disappears from your contact list and you can no longer correspond with him or her. The only purpose of secure messaging is to allow contact with providers while maintaining a firewall between staff and patients. They don’t want you to have your doctor’s email address, nor do they want staff to have patients’ personal email addresses.

            I can’t understand why Bay Pines was sending announcements for public events via secure messaging in the first place. It’s not on the “approved use” list. I’m starting to wonder if they ended it and made up a lame excuse because they got called out on it.

            There’s also no reason to send “healthy living” articles via secure messaging, if that’s in fact what they were doing. The articles show up on the MyHealtheVet homepage when you sign into your account. You also can sign up to get them by email. As I noted elsewhere, I’m not sure why anyone would even want them, but presumably someone finds them useful.

            Without actually seeing an example of what Bay Pines has been sending via secure messaging, it’s hard to know why they did it that way. The only logical conclusion, however, is that it was strictly local information, which had to be all or mostly notices of local events. Everything else comes from the top.

            Vets without an MHV account have other options. Each VA medical center has its own website, with a calendar of events. The main VA website also has a ton of info. Facebook and Twitter are conveniences for those who prefer the social media experience.

  9. tony from norcal

    VA messaging system user interface is poorly desigmed. Plus they require a long complex password. Once you get past that its a great system.

    Messages go to care team and are answered promptly. No spam.

    I suspect Going to FB is an attempt to make system available to more vets. I agree FB is terrible idea. Might be better off having some good designers streamline the login and user interface.

    1. 3.14e-9

      Tony, evidently there’s some federal regulation with those password requirements. The Social Security Admin has the same requirements. Washington State’s Healthcare (sic) Exchange also has them, on steroids. Not only do they have all the same password criteria, but you have to change the password every 90 days. If you don’t, you’re locked out of your account and have to call — which can mean up to an hour on hold — to get it unlocked. I had a major back-and-forth several months ago with their web people, who were condescending and treated me like a computer-illiterate dummy. They said they have to do it to meet federal regs, but that obviously is a lie, because the VA and SSA don’t make you do that.

      Anyway, as much as I hate the MHV password process, it is protecting extremely sensitive info. If anyone manages to get into your account, they have access to ALL of your health records, including psychiatric assessments and what meds you’re taking.

      As for FB, I keep pointing out that you get the same info on Twitter, without having to create an account or sign in. Much of the same information also is available on VA websites.

  10. agk

    If you want to get mad about Big Privatization in the VA system, read Steven Trynosky’s stunning 2014 monograph on how the 112th and 113th Congresses (2011-2015) moved to begin dismantling the veterans’ subgovernment, what forces made it possible despite America’s longest war, and what is to be done.

    The title is “Beyond the Iron Triangle: Implications for the Veterans
    Health Administration in an Uncertain Policy Environment,” it’s 90 pages, and it’s free online since it was written in the School of Advanced Military Studies at Fort Leavenworth:

    I like the VA, a lot, and would love even more a “VA for All” single payer system. Unfortunately, Congress seems more focused on constructing a “VA for None” system. Without strong VSOs and a distribution of veterans over more congressional districts, veterans will be looking at more and more “choice vouchers,” doctors who don’t understand veteran needs, and crapification.

  11. run75441

    “Our Education Call Center is available at 1-888-442-4551 (Monday – Friday, 7 a.m. – 6 p.m. CST) for any questions about your GI Bill benefits and remaining entitlement. You can also join the conversation on our Facebook page or follow us on Twitter @VAVetBenefits.”

    Nothing here says I have to use Facebook or Twitter. It just says it is available to use for some things. I have not major problems with the VA.

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