There are 2 statutes that work together in establishing processes and methods in collecting, maintaining, and releasing medical records.
These are the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and the Privacy Act.
What is the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)?
This act handles the disclosure of documents that are maintained by government agencies. If there were any requests for records of the Department of the Navy (DoN), this act would have to be followed.
The DoN will make available the information as long as the requester can reasonably describe the reason and pay for the service and printing.
Every Navy facility is responsible for developing these procedures. However, the official who is working on the request has 20 working days to respond to the requestor.
Not all records are available upon request. Naval records can be withheld if they were exempt from FOIA disclosure. You can’t just go in and ask for someone else’s private or medical information. A request and release of these types of files in the wrong hands would signal an invasion of privacy. For this situation, we move onto the Privacy Act.
What is the Privacy Act of 1974?
It became apparent that not all of the public’s right to know basis as appropriate. The main one here was that information that belonged to an individual and that person’s right to privacy.
The Privacy Act of 1974 was created to protect those rights.
The Privacy Act required federal agencies to:
- Let an individual know what records about that individual were being recorded and used
- Allow the individual to prevent records from being used without the individual’s consent
- Allow the owner of the record, the individual to gain access to the information
- Ensure that any information about an individual be used as necessary with not misused
- Permit exemptions from the Privacy Act only when there is a specific authority to do so
- Be subject to civil suits as a result of any violation of the individual’s rights under the Privacy Act
Any employee of the agency who intentionally violates the Privacy Act is subject to criminal prosecution and fines.