We received a press release on Wednesday from retired Navy veteran Lauren Price, founder of Veteran Warriors, a national veterans’ advocacy group which works on behalf of other veterans who need help, and tirelessly fights for legislation to improve care for veterans.
Price has been fighting for the past decade to end the military’s use of hazardous open-air burn pits as a means of waste disposal in combat zones, which has caused serious illnesses and even death to countless service members.
Veteran Warriors is sounding the alarm over a notice just sent out by the Department of Veteran Affairs, stating that all veterans’ medical records will be uploaded to the “Virtual Lifelong Electronic Record” (VLER) – and veterans are only getting two days to opt-out if they don’t want their medical records uploaded to a third-party cyber-cloud for an unknown number of people to access.
Below is a portion of the press release, explaining veterans’ concerns over a breach of their rights to privacy:
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 21st Century ~ 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.”
Outraged over the new development, Price states in the press release:
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.
While serving in Iraq in 2007-2008, Price contracted a terminal lung disease, called Constrictive Bronchiolitis, due to exposure to the military’s use of open-air burn pits where hazardous waste is burned, leaving her with only 35 percent lung capacity.
Earlier this year, Price was interviewed by DMLNewsApp founder and documentary filmmaker Dennis Michael Lynch. Watch in the video below: