July 10 VCS in the News: VA, PhillySecurity Plan Won’t be Used Elsewhere

St. Petersburg Times

July 8, 2008 – Somebody’s got their facts messed up.

The Department of Veterans Affairs said today that it has no interest in expanding a security system now being implemented at a VA hospital in Philadelphia. The system allows guards to scan IDs of employees, patients and visitors and run names through databases that, among other things, will warn the VA about someone wanted by police or the FBI.

Somebody better tell that to the company selling the system to the Philadlphia VA for $100,000.

Amy Hager, a spokeswoman for Intelli-Check-Mobilisa Inc., said last week that the company had high hopes of selling its scanning devices to other VA hospitals. In fact, she said other VA hospitals had contacted the company expressing an interest.

The system faces criticism from some veterans groups, including Veterans for Common Sense, whose executive director, Paul Sullivan, told us last week the system might scare some veterans away from seeking treatment or benefits simply because they have had a minor problem with the law. “Is the VA going to hire more doctors? Or are they going to be playing Big Brother?” he said.

It was described as a $100,000 pilot program by the system’s manufacturer. The system also is used widely by the Department of Defense.

We tried to get comment from the VA earlier but were unable to get someone on the phone until today. VA national spokeswoman Laurie Tranter said the VA will not be using the system outside of Philadelphia. She said she did not know why it was being used in Philadelphia.

“This is being used as a background check for new employees,” she said. “It will also be used to screen visitors on nights and weekends and won’t be used nationally.”

She said patients will not be subject to any ID check using the scanning system.

That isn’t exactly what Intelli-Check is telling the world. In a company press release on the business news wire, and in an interview with Hager, the company said its Defense ID system would be used to “scan identification cards from patients, visitors, contractors, delivery personell and employees.”

Tranter insisted patients will not be scanned and should have no fear of being detained over some minor warrant, whatever the company said in its press release.

“It’s absolutely only for visitors who come to the hospital,” she said.

Hager, in a previous interview, downplayed Big Brother criticisms, saying, “You don’t want rapists and murderers in the hospital anyway.”

Time will tell who is right. If the system pops up elsewhere at another VA facility, we’ll let you know.

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