Democrats in the House and Senate are calling for the acting chief information officer of the Department of Veterans Affairs to be fired because of the work he did on the Trump campaign – a move that drew a statement from the acting V.A. Secretary Robert Wilkie.
Camilo Sandoval was appointed the VA's acting CIO last month. During the 2016 presidential campaign, he worked as then-candidate Donald Trump's director of data operations. Because of the campaign's contract with data firm Cambridge Analytica — which is under fire for misusing millions of Facebook users' data for campaign purposes — Democratic lawmakers now want Sandoval out.
Eleven Democrats — six congressmen and five senators — sent a letter to Deputy VA Secretary Thomas Bowman this week, asking for Sandoval to be terminated.
After referencing the VA's "malign neglect" to modernize veterans' electronic health records, the lawmakers explained their reasons why Sandoval should no longer work at the department.
"This appointment raises serious data security concerns stemming from Mr. Sandoval's previous position as the director of data operations in 2016 while the Trump campaign was contracting with Cambridge Analytica," the letter reads.
"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 went on to reference a $25 million lawsuit filed against Sandoval for slander, harassment, and sexual discrimination against another member of the Trump campaign. Politico reported on that lawsuit last month.
Acting VA Secretary Robert Wilkie responded to the attack on Sandoval with a vote of confidence for his "extensive experience," "working relationship with the White House," and being "important member of this leadership team."
"Camilo Sandoval has extensive experience in financial technology and digital mobile payments," Wilkie's statement released Wednesday read. "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.
"Senior VA officials are now on the same page, speaking with one voice to Veterans, employees and outside stakeholders, such as Congress and veterans service organizations, and Camilo is an important member of this leadership team.
"I have outlined two key priorities for VA between now and Memorial Day – finalizing a decision on electronic health record modernization and passing the Mission Act to improve healthcare choices for America's veterans.
"We would appreciate these lawmakers' support in helping VA get these priorities over the finish line for our nation's heroes."
The VA employs more than 377,000 people and has been the subject of harsh criticism in recent years thanks to a waitlist scandal that resulted in dozens of veterans dying while waiting to see a doctor, poor sanitary conditions in VA facilities, and issues around company leadership. VA Secretary David Shulkin was fired in March and his replacement nominee was forced to withdraw his name from consideration after Democrats accused him of misconduct.
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