The Eagle Review - Federal

A Veteran Cannot Get Records Amended

If your a Veteran and you request a record amendment, you may find it doesn’t matter the reason for denial or the validity of the change, the Veterans Affairs (VA) may deny it. This is what happened to one Veteran at the South Texas Veterans Health Care System (STVHCS) in San Antonio, Texas.

The more concerning thing? The reason given, admits it should be changed. A FOIA received from the STVHCS uncovers problems with the records amendment process. The document used for routing medical professional signatures was missing a final signature of the Chief of Staff.

The note on the document is quoted as, “The amendment is not necessary to accomplish a purpose of the VA – 38 CFR 1.579.”

That quote, literally means an amendment should be approved as there is no medical value with what was requested to be changed. The STVHCS Privacy Officer, Nigel Burns, was asked about it and he stated it’s not his job to question medical professionals. Typically, this would be an agreeable statement, but under the circumstances of it being listed in the manner it is and it means it is not needed for care, why would he not ask?

There may be bigger problems to address in another story, but for now; let’s talk about the complicated process of appeal. When a denial occurs, or any decision; the VA issues a letter and advises of the rights of the Veteran. It says one can mail a letter to Washington D.C. One has to question the century the VA is operating in and how it does not have a more economically, and efficient process than traditional mail.

Because it’s mailed, they automatically state there will be a delay. The delay can mean eternity or they may get to it when they feel like it. Another issue? It’s common sense to see the problem and resolve it, so why does it even need to be mailed? The level of knowledge to use when determine the validity of a request, is that of a layman. This means that even the Privacy Officer can apply common sense and consult with a medical professional on amendment changes. So why didn’t Nigel Burns? This might be a good question for Veterans Organizations, as this is a historical problem with no rational validation.

Many times the requests are denied for no reason, we know from experience. We also know that medical professionals will listen to the Privacy Officers when they ask why or seek input from the Chief of Staff. We at The Hawk’s Eye News have fulfilled the role of the Privacy Officer for the VA and always made sure denials were appropriate for the Veterans we served.

There is no valid excuse for this to occur, especially from an expert in the process. This one example is a main reason for the creation of The Hawk’s Eye News.

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