VA-Standing-Letter-FactSheet-Vol09No21 by xuyuzhu


									           Office of Health Data and Informatics
           VHA Information Access and Privacy Office

                        Privacy Fact Sheet
January 2009                                                                     Volume 09, No. 2
                     How to Process Standing Letter Requests
In order for the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) to provide law enforcement or state agencies
with individual identifiable information about a veteran, the agency must submit a written request. To
expedite information disclosure the VHA may initiate a request for standing letters from known law
enforcement or state agencies that require reporting. Standing Letters should be updated every three
years. It is imperative that you conduct a thorough review of your state statutes for mandatory

Identifying Agencies
To find out which agencies should have standing letter requests on file, speak with the following
services within your facility to determine which agencies should have standing letter requests:
     VA Police: (Law Enforcement) State Police, Sheriff, City Police, State Medical Licensing Board,
        State Nursing Licensing Board, State Pharmacy Licensing Board
     Infection Control: (Health Department – Animal bites) County, City, State,
     Facility Cancer Registry: (State Cancer Registry)
     Social Worker: (Adult and Child Protective Services- suspected abuse) State
     Social Worker: (Department of Motor Vehicles – Unsafe driver) State
     Nursing Services & Human Resources:
You may also want to consult your state law (eg. Vital statistics reporting, communicable disease
reporting, sexually transmitted disease reporting, etc.) to identify which laws require mandatory
reporting. Remember, areas of concern include not only your central VA medical facility, but also VA
outpatient clinics and locations that govern CBOC’s as well.

General Guidelines:
  1. Send a solicitation letter to each agency requesting under 38 USC 5701(e) and (f)(2), and 5 USC
      552a(b)(3) and (b)(7) ask for the following:
         a. A request to be submitted in writing.
         b. A list of the specific State statute or other applicable law that authorizes the collection of
            information on a routine basis.
         c. A written copy of the statute.
         d. A statement that the information will not be used for any purpose other than the reason for
            which it is being disclosed.
         e. Signature by the Head of Agency or individual specifically delegated authority to sign (must
            also include copy of delegation).
  2. Include the following informational statements in the solicitation letter:
         a. Statement that the standing letter will be valid for a period of 3 years from the date of your
            VHA facility Director’s acknowledgement memorandum.
         b. Statement that 38 USC 7332 does not permit VHA authority to disclose information related to
            alcohol and/or drug abuse, or sickle cell anemia. HIV reporting may be disclosed if State
            statute specifically charges the public health authority with protection of public health and
            mandated reporting.
         c. Statement regarding potential penalties under 38 USC 5701(f) that “Any person who
            knowingly and willfully requests or obtains any record concerning any individual from an
            agency under false pretenses shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and fined not more than
            $5,000 in the case of first offense and not more than $20,000 in any subsequent case.”
  3. Send an acknowledgement letter signed by the facility Director.
   4. Provide a complete copy of the standing letter agreement to each area within the facility responsible
      for the disclosure of information pursuant to the agreement.
   5. Maintain and destroy all documentation regarding a standing letter in accordance with Record
      Control Schedule (RCS) 10-1, XLIII-7, Privacy Control Files, 5 years after the standing letter has

   1. Your response rate from the agencies can be increased by making phone calls to agencies prior
      to sending out letters.
   2. Create a spreadsheet & mail merge! This will make life much simpler for you and save a great
      deal of time.
   3. Get familiar with your state law. You need to be informed of what is and isn’t required to be
      reported by your state.
   4. Collaborate with privacy officers in the same state and send your letters out at the same time to
      increase your response rate.
   5. It is recommended that regional counsel review standing letters to make sure that they comply
      with state law requirements.
   6. A standing letter template will be posted on the web site for use.

Privacy Office at a glance…
VHA-specific: VHA personnel should contact the VHA Privacy Office via email through the VHA Privacy
Issues mail group.

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