244590 Using the VA Claims and Confidentiality Statute to access veteran health data for public health activities

Monday, October 31, 2011

Denise Chrysler, JD , The Network for Public Health Law, Mid-States Region, University of Michigan School of Public Health, Ann Arbor, MI
Robyn Rontal, MHSA, JD , Public Health Law Network, Mid-States Region, Univeristy of Michigan School of Public Health, Ann Arbor
State public health authorities and other non-federal government agencies play an important role in preserving, protecting and promoting public health. Access to identifiable data from health providers and payers can be an essential element in serving the public's interest in community health and safety. Health care facilities under the jurisdiction of the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) are a significant component of health care services delivered to the United States population and should be included in public health related reporting and surveillance activities. The VHA functions as a government agency, a health plan and health care provider and must comply with several applicable privacy and confidentiality statutes and regulations. One of the most commonly encountered statutes regarding privacy of veteran health information is the VA Claims Confidentiality Statute, 38 U.S.C. 5701. This session presents an overview of the VA Claims Confidentiality Statute and details the requirements that permit VHA health facilities to release identifiable data to public health authorities for public health activities. Methodology: Research methods included a review of statutory and regulatory documents, relevant case law, and Veteran Administration handbooks, as well as interviews with key informants, including a Veterans Administration Privacy Officer. Results: The VA Claims and Confidentiality Statute provides for the confidentiality of all VA patient and claimant names and home addresses (and the names and home addresses of their dependents) and permits disclosure of the information only when specifically authorized by the statute. Title 38 U.S.C. µ 5701(f) allows for the disclosure of VA patient names and addresses to a civil government agency or criminal law enforcement organization instrumentality charged with the protection of public health or safety if a “qualified representative” (i.e., the head of the requesting agency or a person authorized to sign the request) submits a “written standing request” (i.e., a letter containing specific statements and enclosures) indicating the “purpose authorized by law” (e.g., vital statistics reporting, communicable disease reporting, sexually transmitted disease reporting, etc.) for which the health information will be used.

Learning Areas:
Ethics, professional and legal requirements
Planning of health education strategies, interventions, and programs
Public health or related laws, regulations, standards, or guidelines
Public health or related organizational policy, standards, or other guidelines

Learning Objectives:
1. List the key components of a request for veteran health information under the VA Claims and Confidentiality Statute. 2. Formulate a written standing request. 3. Name the key privacy and confidentiality statutes that apply to veteran health information.

Keywords: Law, Veterans' Health

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: Denise Chrysler is a licensed attorney and the Director of the Public Health Law Network's Mid-States Region. For 29 years, Denise provided legal counsel to Michigan’s public health department on issues related to communicable disease, public health hazards, privacy, health information exchange and legal preparedness. She served as the state health department’s privacy officer for five years, advising the department on legal issues related to the collection, storage, use, and disclosure of data for public health purposes.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.