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Whistleblowers say Biden's Veterans Affairs nominee failed to address data breaches

Tanya Bradsher currently serves as Veterans Affairs chief of staff.

Published: June 11, 2023 11:10pm

Updated: June 11, 2023 11:14pm

President Joe Biden's nominee for deputy secretary of the Veterans Affairs Department has been accused by at least one whistleblower of being involved in serious data security breaches, resulting in demands from watchdog groups for more information about the allegations before the Senate votes on whether to confirm her.

The nominee, Tanya Bradsher, currently serves as Veterans Affairs chief of staff. She was nominated to the position of deputy secretary by Biden in April.

Bradsher, a combat veteran who served 20 years in the U.S. Army before retiring in 2013 as a lieutenant colonel, has faced numerous questions about her handling of sensitive information. 

Peter Rizzo, a retired Veterans Affairs program manager and a certified fraud examiner, has recommended the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee "stop the confirmation process" for Bradsher at least until U.S. Office of Special Counsel releases the findings on the matter.

The office is more specifically looking into Veterans Affair's Integrated Workflow Solution program, the agency's internal correspondence tracking system known as VIEWS, of which Rizzo is in charge.

The office concluded nearly a year ago that whistleblower disclosures indicated a "substantial likelihood of wrongdoing" and referred the disclosures to Veterans Affairs to investigate.

A report was due within 60 days, but Veterans Affairs has requested extensions every 60 days since.

"The findings from this investigation are expected to document what I have found to be an incredible and unconscionable mishandling of VA employee and veterans' personally identifiable information, personal health information, and details of whistleblower disclosures," Rizzo wrote late last month, shortly before the Senate committee's hearing on Bradsher’s nomination.

Rizzo said he voiced his concerns about deficiencies in the agency's internal correspondence system and its misuse by employees in July 2022. But nearly a year later, he says, Bradsher has "failed to close cavernous security gaps" in the system.

"Through her inaction, she has ignored pleas from whistleblowers to protect their data, and has not been forthcoming with Congress, veteran service organizations, VA employees, or the public about the potential damage VIEWS has caused and may cause in the future," he also wrote.

The Department of Veterans Affairs did not respond to request for comment.

Last week, Empower Oversight and Whistleblowers of America, non-profit watchdogs, reiterated Rizzo's concerns in a letter to Senate committee Chairman John Tester, a Montana Democrat, and the committee's top Republican, Sen. Jerry Moran of Kansas.

Read the letter here:

"We are disappointed that the committee has thus far shown no interest in thoroughly vetting the nominee’s record despite the serious issues raised by these whistleblowers on her watch," the oversight groups said in a letter.

The letter also argues Bradscher has been involved in "stonewalling" oversight of the Veterans Affairs Department.

Bradscher allegedly was also on numerous email chains regarding oversight requests from Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa,  dating back to 2021 but she has not answered why her agency never sent a response to his questions.

"Any confirmation process should be rigorous and thorough – not merely a rubber stamp," the watchdog groups also wrote. "The Committee owes it to the public veterans, and fellow senators to ensure that they are fully informed before exercising their constitutional advice and consent function,."

Madeleine Hubbard is an international correspondent for Just the News. Follow her on Twitter or Instagram.

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