The Virginia Beach Auditor’s office says eight human services workers have been either fired or disciplined within the last year for accessing personal confidential information of former employees, family members, and clients – according to HamptonRoads.com. Alarmingly, according to the article, some of the employees were supervisors.
The majority of questionable activity involved the Financial Assistance Department within the agency. That department is responsible for Medicaid assistance, food stamps, and emergency relief. One calming aspect of this story is that there appears to be no reported violations of identity theft – a growing issue for the nation as a whole that can wreck havoc on a person’s credit rating.
Virginia Beach Human Services Director Robert Morin said the majority of violations occurred when employees utilized the state database to obtain information about a person they were familiar with. Confidentiality is important to the integrity of any agency, and Morin told HamptonRoads.com, “We have a zero tolerance policy for [improper use of state databases/information].”
Among the alleged violations include fairly serious reports: one supervisor is alleged to have compelled her employees to obtain data about her spouse’s child. In addition, HamptonRoads reports that one worker allegedly inquired into the Medicaid benefits of a deceased client for improper reasons.
The disturbing security infringements have prompted an audit and may begin as early as this month. It is expected to entail a four month wide-ranging security analysis of the agency. This is all according to city auditor, Lyndon Remias, who commented “We need to look at the magnitude of the problem. . .”
Reportedly, employees notified authorities through a fraud hotline. The security breaches may not have been discovered if the reports were not called in, since detecting violations is not easy. According to Virginia Beach officials, the database at issue handles over 200,000 “hits” a month.