On Wednesday, Business Insider ran a report based on information from the extreme leftist non-profit Avaaz, accusing The Western Journal of running a fake news story.
Business Insider neither disclosed that Avaaz is left-leaning nor did anyone from the news website reach out to The Western Journal for comment before running the piece.
The Western Journal story cited by Avaaz concerns House Democrats’ efforts to fast-track a new electronic health records system for both legal and illegal immigrants, while at the same time voting down a proposed GOP amendment that would ensure a universal EHR system was first put in place for American military veterans.
Avaaz also failed to reach out to The Western Journal for comment before releasing its study, but included the article on its list of “Top 20 Fake News Stories” of 2019, citing a Snopes fact check of the piece as a source.
Had Avaaz reached out, the organization would have learned that The Western Journal corrected the piece on Oct. 23 after being notified that it did not clearly convey that an outdated EHR system already exists for American veterans.
Avaaz’s study collected data from Jan. 1 to Oct. 31, 2019. As is stated in the study, “the ‘estimated views’ and interactions are based on the cumulative CrowdTangle data for each post across the pages, groups and profiles featuring the post on Facebook. The estimates do not represent the views or interactions solely for the account associated with the link provided for each post.” Therefore it is impossible to know if Avaaz’s data is including views of our posts from Oct. 23 to Oct. 31 when the article no longer contained incorrect information.
As soon as The Western Journal was made aware of our error, a correction was made and an update was sent to the reader who notified us of the mistake. A mistake on the part of The Western Journal, however, was our failure to issue a formal correction on the story until Nov. 7 instead of immediately after the change was made.
Even so, Avaaz published its report calling our article “fake news” on Nov. 5, nearly two weeks after the information about veterans’ EHRs in the original version of our article was corrected.
As Avaaz suggests in its “five step process” for “correcting the record,” The Western Journal took immediate steps to correct our error and stop the spread of incorrect information as soon as we were made aware of its existence by one of our readers.
Avaaz’s process, however, is one specifically geared toward online platforms — not publications — stopping the spread of “disinformation.”
A significant step that appears to be missing from Avaaz’s “solution” is to notify publishers of an error to give them a chance to make corrections before attempting to discredit them. No part of Avaaz’s proposed solution includes making publications aware of their mistakes to allow them to fix them.
Our publication works daily to ensure we correct our errors as quickly as possible, which includes issuing corrections directly on our articles and on platforms where our articles are shared. Being notified about errors we have missed is a large part of providing our readers with the highest quality content we can.
The Western Journal’s piece never made the claim that an EHR system didn’t exist for veterans, but it did not adequately clarify that there is a current VA system in the process of being modernized for seamless records sharing between VA hospitals, community care providers and the Department of Defense.
The VA system updates for interoperability are projected to take nearly a decade to put in place. The system Democrats proposed for immigrants, on the other hand, would be implemented within 90 days of the bill’s passage and would be accessible within the Department of Homeland Security “by all departmental components operating along the borders of the United States.”
The Snopes fact check on which Avaaz partially based its inclusion of our story fails on multiple levels to accurately describe TWJ’s piece.
The Snopes piece addresses the claim that “In September 2019, U.S. House Democrats voted for a bill that would create an electronic health record system for immigrants on the southern border which does not yet exist for military veterans.”
Snopes rated that claim as “mostly false” — but it’s Snopes’ rating itself that is mostly false.
The bill in question, House Resolution 3525 “U.S. Border Patrol Medical Screening Standards Act,” states, “Not later than 90 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, the Chief Information Officer of the Department of Homeland Security, in coordination with the Chief Medical Officer of the Department, shall establish within the Department an electronic health record system that can be accessed by all departmental components operating along the borders of the United States for individuals in the custody of such components.” (Emphasis added.)
As mentioned, unlike the proposed EHR system for immigrants in H.R. 3525, EHRs for our veterans are not interoperable — the system is not yet equipped to share patient data between the VA, the Defense Department and community care providers.
Republican Rep. Mark Green of Tennessee noted in support of his amendment to the Democratic bill that the “timeline states that our veterans will not get an interoperable electronic health record at all VA healthcare facilities until Sept. 20 of 2027. VA medical facilities serving veterans in Virginia won’t get it until 2024. Pennsylvania, New Nork, New Jersey and New England won’t be fully operational until 2026. It won’t be until 2027 that VA medical facilities in Iowa, Minnesota and Illinois are fully operational. Veterans in my home state of Tennessee won’t benefit from interoperable electronic health records until 2023.”
Therefore, the similarly interconnected system H.R. 3525 mandates along the border is one that does not currently exist for military veterans and is not slated for completion until 2027 in some areas.
The Snopes fact check goes on to state, “the bill would not provide immigrants specific health benefits or create an EHR system that does not already exist in relation to U.S. military veterans, since the Veterans Affairs Administration has had an EHR system for years.”
Green succinctly addressed this issue, saying, “We are about to give this health record system to illegal immigrants before our veterans receive it.” Not a health record system but this health record system.
It’s true that specific health benefits wouldn’t come from the bill, however, Green’s comments on the issue were taken out of context. In using the word “benefits,” Green was referring to the actual benefit of having universally accessible health records such as the ones being proposed for immigrants and the kind for which veterans are currently waiting a decade.
For context, here’s Green’s entire statement on the “benefits”:
“For example, the very benefits that Congresswoman Underwood in this bill advances for illegal aliens flooding across our southern border, our veterans don’t have those benefits. Let me say that again: This bill, without the amendment I am asking this body to consider, advances health care services to illegal aliens before it does to our American heroes. The VA secretary testified before Congress that it will take his department 10 years to fully deploy this new system.”
Taken out of context, Green’s claim about benefits could easily be misunderstood. But paired with his next statements, namely “let me say that again,” he makes it clear he is referencing the new system providing modernized, universally available health records.
As for Snopes’ assertion that the bill would not create an EHR system for immigrants that does not already exist for veterans, that claim is also false. The proposed system for immigrants would provide department-wide access to health records immediately, something that veterans do not currently have.
Snopes further claims: “Democrats did not reject a Republican proposal to give veterans the same EHR being proposed for immigrants, because such a system already exists and anyway, that’s not what the Republican proposal called for.”
Democrats rejected Green’s amendment which would have established the deadline for the immigrant EHR system’s creation as Sept. 30, 2027, some 10 days after veterans’ universal EHR system would be completely rolled out.
Nowhere did The Western Journal claim Democrats voted down the same EHR system. TWJ claimed what Democrats did was “vote down vets,” (which is exactly what Democrats did, based on Green’s thorough explanation of his amendment) and that Green’s amendment would “ensure veterans receive the same treatment as illegal immigrants under the bill.”
Democrats voted down an amendment that would have recognized that veterans deserve to get an interconnected EHR system before illegal immigrants get theirs. That is most certainly a case of Democrats choosing to “vote down vets.”
Further, the “same EHR system” and the “same treatment as illegal immigrants” are not the same thing. Snopes’ characterization of the former is inaccurate since Green’s amendment didn’t seek to create the “same EHR system.” The Green amendment sought to give vets the “same treatment as illegal immigrants,” by making the deadlines for implementation essentially the same instead of fast-tracking immigrants’ system before that of veterans.
While The Western Journal cannot comment on other publications’ treatment of this story, TWJ’s treatment of the story is well within both the facts and reason. Snopes’ fact-checking of TWJ’s piece is another example of the left-leaning gotcha site conflating its opinion and misreadings with the facts.
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