January 17, 2020
Veteran Warriors Managing Director, YN1 Lauren Price, USN, (Ret.) participated in a roundtable with over 20 other military Veterans Advocates and Service Organizations; hosting Late Night celebrity and Toxic Exposure Advocate, Jon Stewart, along with 9/11 First Responder and activist John Feal.
The meeting was the culmination of efforts by a coalition founded by Wounded Warrior Project called “Toxic Exposures of American Military” (TEAM), to collectively work toward ending the use of open-air #BurnPits by DoD; and help all veterans affected by #ToxicExposures to receive the benefits and services they have earned.
The @ToxicExposures TEAM was formed 18 months ago to identify and remove the roadblocks that millions of active duty service members and veterans face when trying to obtain benefits and services for diseases which are a direct result of exposures to toxic chemicals during their military service.
***If you want to share YOUR burn pit story, please email us at: email@example.com
October 2, 2019
TAMPA, FL – VA WAIVES VETERANS’ RIGHTS TO PRIVACY, WHICH RIGHTS ARE NEXT?
“When it comes to privacy and accountability, people always demand the former for themselves and the latter for everyone else.” ― David Brin
On Saturday, September 28, 2019, tens of thousands of veterans across the country, received a hefty envelope from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). That big envelope wasn’t the claim decisions that many have waited years for; rather it was a mass-produced letter and an eight (8) page booklet (you can find here ..\..\..\..\OneDrive\Desktop\VHA Privacy EHR Opt Out.pdf), discussing the VA’s latest attempts to enter the 21stCentury ~ by having all veterans medical records uploaded to the “Virtual Lifelong Electronic Record” (VLER). VA claims (in the letter and on several separate internet pages it maintains), that this latest effort was legally mandated by the passage of the MISSION Act (June 2018). Thankfully, there are astute legal minds, such as our friend Ben Krause, who, like us, caught this Machiavellian wordplay and slammed the brakes on our automatic compliance. For most veterans, as it wasn’t their long-awaited claim decision, we guess that more than a few veterans scanned the rather boring looking missive and tossed it aside.
Over the weekend, veterans advocates, attorneys and concerned Constitutionalists did read the lengthy tome; only to discover that a disturbing turn of events was taking place and every veteran in the nation who ever registered for VA healthcare, had until the end of the day Monday to try to stop it or (according to the document) be forever unable to “claw their records back” from the third-party VA has so generously hired to manage them.
For those who have the distinction of being both a VA employee and a veteran, they are in for even more joy since VA is also sending those veterans “Occupational Records” to the great cloud in cyberspace. Yes friends, if you are a veteran who works for VA, all your medical records and your “occupational records” (whatever those are) will now be available for all manner of people to see – (Read the letter for the full listing)!
For those unfamiliar with the Electronic Health Exchange, it is national system that is managed by a “non-profit” organization called “The Sequoia Project”. While VA is making extreme efforts to convince veterans that this is “in the veterans best interests”; it appears that the VA did not bother to ask the veterans what they want, nor did VA consult any of the reputable and talented attorneys who represent them. From all accounts, VA only consulted the big Veterans Service Organizations, who in turn, approved this Orwellian move for us! Because as we all know, as veterans’, we are incapable of making such important decisions as this…or booking our own medical appointments, managing our finances or even keeping our private information private; unlike the VA who consistently tells us that they know what’s “in the best interests of the veteran”. But I digress, let’s go back to that important “notice” some of us (not all by any definition!) received less than 72 hours before it was to take effect.
There are two (2) very important federal laws that are relevant to this issue; the Privacy Act of 1974 (5 U.S.C. § 552a) and HIPAA; both being laws prior to MISSION Act being signed into law. Take note, MISSION does NOT necessitate or mandate this data grab. It clearly states, (key word is MAY, not SHALL);
“The relevant section of the MISSION Act as codified in 38 USC § 7332(b)(2)(H)(i) states the Secretary may disclose the contents of a medical record with or without consent: “To a non-Department entity (including private entities and other Federal agencies) for purposes of providing health care, including hospital care, medical services, and extended care services, to patients or performing other health care-related activities or functions.” https://www.disabledveterans.org/2019/10/01/no-consent-required-4-things-you-need-to-know-on-new-va-privacy-rules/
MISSION was written this way because the Privacy Act explicitly prescribes how federal agencies (including VA) will handle your private records.
“The Privacy Act of 1974, 5 U.S.C. § 552a, establishes a code of fair information practices that governs the collection, maintenance, use, and dissemination of information about individuals that is maintained in systems of records by federal agencies…The Privacy Act requires that agencies give the public notice of their systems of records by publication in the Federal Register… The Privacy Act prohibits the disclosure of a record about an individual from a system of records absent the written consent of the individual, unless the disclosure is pursuant to one of twelve statutory exceptions.” https://www.justice.gov/opcl/privacy-act-1974
Now for some REAL spin for you…follow closely here…
The VA was required to provide notice of their intent to do this via a publication in the Federal Register of their intent to do this. An extensive search of the Federal Register found no such notice, and the timeline that we have verified doesn’t come even close to compliance with either law.
Below is the timeline:
June 6, 2018 MISSION ACT is signed into law.
September 9, 2019 The “notice” was generated, along with the 8-page booklet describing specifically whose records will be sent to the VLER, who will have access to them and how to “Opt-Out” if you do not want to participate. It is clearly stated that you must manually “Opt-Out”, otherwise all records will be uploaded.
From the letter: “If you do not wish VHA to share your health information with-non-VH-A providers through HIEs for your treatment and-care,-you will need to submit the "Opt-Out of Sharing Protected Health Information Through Health Information Exchanges" form to opt out. Visitwww.va.gov/vler or contact your Release of Information (ROI) Department at the VA facility where you receive care for more information on how to opt out of HIE sharing for your treatment by non-VHA providers.”
Sometime between that date and September 26, 2019; the major VSO’s met with the VA leadership and “approved” what was going to be sent out. We cannot locate a single public statement by any VSO about this, dated prior to September 29, 2019. We cannot determine if the union (American Federation of Government Employees – AFGE) attended or even had any advance notice of what was coming for all their rank and file.
September 26, 2019 The “notice” is mailed to some veterans. As VA has not stated how many veterans they notified, there is no way to confirm how many of the nearly 8 million veterans registered for VA healthcare actually received the notice; especially in time to respond.
September 28, 2019 The first notices begin to arrive, and veterans, advocates and attorneys begin questioning what is happening; especially the fact that the VA’s website mandates that you have 2 days to comply or your “Opt-Out” form will not be processed and since VA only created and approved the appropriate form 10-10164 on
From the VA-VLER page:
“For those who are currently opted in, if at any time you wish to stop sharing your records, visit your local VA medical center's Release of Information Office and ask for a "stop sharing" form (VA Form 10-0484) or call 1-844-MyVA311 (1- 844-698-2311 ), select "O", and ask for Release of Information (ROI) Office to request a "stop sharing" form. Revocation forms will not be processed after September 30, 2019. However, if you submit VA Form 10-0484, before September 30, your preference will remain honored and no further action is needed by you.”
That same VA page now reflects a major issue: that you must DELIVER (by mail or in person), the New Opt-Out form. VA has not had the form digitized to be handled electronically (the irony is NOT lost on most of us)! Notice that in the mailed letter, VA instructed all to file the 10-0484 and that no other revocations will be accepted after September 30, 2019?
“Notice to Veterans: The VA Health Information Exchange Opt Out Form, VA Form 10-10164, is
Now available online at www.va.gov, on this website, or in Release of Information Office (ROI) at
VA medical centers. The form must be signed, mailed and/or hand carried to a Veteran's local
Release of Information Office. VA Form 10-0484 will expire September 30, 2019 and the new
form VA 10-10164, will need to be submitted. Currently, there are no means of submitting the
form electronically. VA Systems will begin opting all Veterans into health information
sharing beginning January 2020.”
Last night, we were alerted to a VA Blog post that contradicts all of these contradictory statements! Although this (VA employee) blogger does leave out some very pertinent information; like that your information will not only be shared with your outside providers, but others as well. He goes on to claim that if you DO opt-out, VA will NOT share your information with your outside providers! We guess they will just ignore those pesky written releases that are legally required under HIPAA!
However, if you do notwant to share your information electronically, you must submit VA Form 10-10164(Opt Out of Sharing).
You can submit your Form 10-10164at any time. VA will share your information until you submit your form.
If you submitted Form 10-0484before September 30, you do NOT need to submit Form 10-10164.
You can return VA Form 10-10164at any VA Medical Center. Just visit the Release of Information (ROI) office. You can also send it by mail. After VA processes your form, your VA health information will not be shared electronically with community providers you see for treatment.” https://www.blogs.va.gov/VAntage/66706/va-shares-electronic-health-records/
For those who chime in, “What’s the big deal?”, or worse yet, “The VA is only sharing our medical records so that we can get outside care.”; just sit down with a nice cup of coffee, tea or an adult beverage and READ this again. READ the letter, READ the Privacy Act. READ the MISSION Act. And if none of these documents will convince you that there is something terribly amiss here; go read the CONSTITUTION. Because that document DOES grant us the right to PRIVACY and there is not a court in the land that will allow VA to strip us of it, just because they think “it’s in the veterans best interests”.
The VA’s track record for managing our private information is abysmal; and this latest tactic is just one in a slew of recent events wherein the VA behaves as if federal laws do not apply to them; disregarding our Constitutional and legislative RIGHTS as if we are subjects rather than citizens. We have seen far too many recent events wherein the VA foregoes any semblance of abiding by the law; each time, basing their actions on “what is in the veteran’s best interests”; as if we are children or feeble-minded and need a nanny to take care of us. The VA is bucking for a very rude awaking very soon…they will discover that the 22 +/- MILLION veterans in the nation are NOT children. We are citizens, voters and taxpayers, who will stand up for our rights and not continue to allow them to be ignored.
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