A lawsuit was recently filed against the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) in order to stop it from sharing veterans’ health records with third parties. A group of former servicemembers filed the lawsuit, stating that sharing health records is a violation of their constitutional rights. VA has agreed to not release records until January of 2020. It made this information available on its website after the suit was filed.
John Wells, a retired Navy Commander, is the litigation director for Military-Veterans Advocacy, which is the name of the group that filed the lawsuit. Wells stated that former servicemembers were supposed to receive notices by Sept. 30th from VA through the mail that include an option to opt-out of sharing medical records. However, many veterans did not receive a letter informing them of the issue until the last few days of September.
Veterans are understandably concerned that their information will not be protected once it is shared to the cloud. VA wants to release all veteran medical records with health providers, unless a former servicemembers chooses to opt out. Previously, all health records were protected, and veterans had to sign a permission slip to release their records to doctors.
VA stated that the change has to do with the new MISSION Act, which expands the different private doctors veterans are able to visit. According to VA, it is sharing health information with community providers using an electronic system that is said to be safe and secure.
The Military-Veterans Advocacy believes that this new change is violating former servicemembers’ constitutional right to privacy. The lawsuit reads that the violation stems from releasing medical records to third parties without written consent from veterans. VA has not yet directly responded to this situation other than affirming that this new policy change provides easy access and improved efficiency for veterans to get the help and care they need.
If you do not want your medical information shared, fill out and submit the VA Form 10-10164 to the nearest VA medical center. If you are a veteran and have already opted out before Sept 30th, you do not have to submit a new form.