Democrats demand VA fire acting CIO, citing 'malign neglect' on EHR project

In a May 15 letter to the Department of Veterans Affairs Deputy Secretary Thomas Bowman, congressional Democrats called  on the agency to fire acting CIO Camilo Sandoval over concerns of his involvement in the 2016 presidential campaign, according to the MilitaryTimes.

Specifically, lawmakers claim his questionable data collection practices as the director of data operations for President Donald Trump's campaign, which contracted with embattled Cambridge Analytics, compromises his ability to safeguard veterans' sensitive health information.

"Cambridge Analytica's misuse of personal information from tens of millions of Americans, including veterans, was an incredible breach of trust. As such, Mr. Sandoval's role in these activities must be thoroughly examined and he should be put nowhere near veterans' health and benefits data," the letter reads.

The letter also referenced a Politico report that found Mr. Sandoval was in the middle of a $25 million lawsuit brought against him by other campaign staffers who allege harassment and discrimination.

Acting VA Secretary Robert Wilkie responded to the letter, calling Mr. Sandoval "an important member" of the VA, according to the MilitaryTimes.

"[He] has extensive experience in financial technology and digital mobile payments," Mr. Wilkie said. "Along with his close working relationship with the White House, this makes him well suited to oversee VA's IT infrastructure while the White House vets a permanent candidate for the position."

Additionally, the lawmakers accused the agency of "malign neglect" over its EHR modernization project since David Shulkin, MD, was terminated from his role as VA secretary. They also noted other leadership issues — including the nearly 40 senior staffers that have resigned from the department in the last four months — contributing to the project's holdup.  

"This is evident through the failure to obtain qualified leadership for the Office of Information Technology, reports of political interference hindering EHR implementation, as well as the rampant vacancies for positions that ensure proper oversight of a new EHR system," the letter stated. "We ask that you act to swiftly resolve our concerns and ensure an interoperable VA EHR system with the Department of Defense expeditiously comes to fruition."

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