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house Bill H.R. 5166

Would Letting Certified Congressional Employees Access VA Health Records Help With Managing Cases?

Argument in favor

Letting Congressional employees access VA health records would ensure that veterans’ voices are heard and give Congress better insight into delays and problems occurring at the VA.

Summer's Opinion
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11/26/2016
After reading detailed information from a few different sources, I believe this is a sensible allowance. It does not seem to violate a patient's protection under the Health Information Privacy Protection Act. This is meant to improve the reviewing of cases that are brought forward by an individual veteran regarding their issues with the VA. In this situation the veterans are fully expecting to provide their claim information in order to make their case. This intends to cut through the bureaucratic red tape that currently exists. For those that are concerned about a certified, non MD having access to claim information: Please remember that certified nurses, certified pharmacy technicians, etc..... are all legally allowed to access the same type of information, and are held to HIPPA expectations and possible consequences of misuse just like doctors.
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Kate's Opinion
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11/26/2016
This bill would not allow these employees to make any changes to veterans' information, but it would increase the number of people working on correctly categorising needs and allocating resources for veterans' needs. Several people have noted that this doesn't fix the root problem, and while that's true, it doesn't mean it's an inconsequential effort. Particularly positive is that accrediting employees with access would be financially funded by the individual budgets of different congress members. This means that constituents could contact their representatives to request that funds be diverted for veterans within their community.
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SherryTX's Opinion
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11/26/2016
I agree with this in principle, but I would need to know what the certification process is before I could give full endorsement. I like the fact that congress can process the applications. I agree there needs to be full accountability by the VA, but this could be a good interim tool.
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Argument opposed

The VA already has established lines of communication with Congress and staffers, there’s no need to give Congressional employees direct access to VA health records to deal with cases.

geilt's Opinion
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11/26/2016
Congress shouldn't be dealing directly with medical records since they aren't qualified to read and interpret them. If they want to solve veteran issues as a whole they should petition for anonymous statistical data of veterans from their EMRs with no identifying information and especially no single files on individuals. This is a violation of HIPPA policy. Of all the people to not give access to records, politicians are at the top of the list. It would only really serve nefarious purposes.
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Dan's Opinion
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11/26/2016
This is a violation of health privacy (HIPAA) and congress has no business trying to play doctor or God. VOTE NAY on this intrusion.
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Mart's Opinion
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11/26/2016
I don't think government should have access to a vet's data. Especially when it may lead to a label so the govt can take this data and use it against the vet, e.g. Second Amendment rights.
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What is House Bill H.R. 5166?

This bill — known as the WINGMAN Act — would require the Dept. of Veterans Affairs (VA) to give an accredited, permanent Congressional employee read-only access to a veteran’s case records in the electronic Veterans Benefits Administration claims records. Currently such access is only given to a person acting as the veteran’s attorney.

The VA would ensure that the Congressional employee wouldn’t be allowed to modify data in the system, and the employee must be certified by the VA to be granted access. Members of Congress who choose to have an employee certified would be required to pay the cost of certification from their official budget.

Impact

Veterans; Congressional employees; and the VA.

Cost of House Bill H.R. 5166

A CBO cost estimate is unavailable.

More Information

In-Depth: Sponsoring Rep. Ted Yoho (R-FL) introduced this bill to streamline the VA claims process by giving Congressional staffers the ability to process the claims of veterans they represent:

“The interaction between the VA and congressional constituent advocates should be seamless.  It is unacceptable that weeks or months pass by before advocates are able to receive the files they’ve requested from the VA to help veterans… This is a commonsense bill that will inevitably increase the speed at which benefit claims are processed. We owe it to our nation’s veterans to give them the best quality care we can and not make them wait months for the benefits they most desperately need.”

This legislation was passed by the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee on a voice vote and has the support of 136 bipartisan cosponsors in the House, including 96 Republicans and 40 Democrats.


Media:

Summary by Eric Revell
(Photo Credit: FLickr user JeffOnWire)

AKA

WINGMAN Act

Official Title

To amend title 38, United States Code, to permit veterans to grant access to their records in the databases of the Veterans Benefits Administration to certain designated congressional employees, and for other purposes.

bill Progress


  • Not enacted
    The President has not signed this bill
  • The senate has not voted
  • The house Passed November 29th, 2016
    Passed by Voice Vote
      house Committees
      Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs
      Committee on Veterans' Affairs
    IntroducedMay 3rd, 2016

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    After reading detailed information from a few different sources, I believe this is a sensible allowance. It does not seem to violate a patient's protection under the Health Information Privacy Protection Act. This is meant to improve the reviewing of cases that are brought forward by an individual veteran regarding their issues with the VA. In this situation the veterans are fully expecting to provide their claim information in order to make their case. This intends to cut through the bureaucratic red tape that currently exists. For those that are concerned about a certified, non MD having access to claim information: Please remember that certified nurses, certified pharmacy technicians, etc..... are all legally allowed to access the same type of information, and are held to HIPPA expectations and possible consequences of misuse just like doctors.
    Like (17)
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    Congress shouldn't be dealing directly with medical records since they aren't qualified to read and interpret them. If they want to solve veteran issues as a whole they should petition for anonymous statistical data of veterans from their EMRs with no identifying information and especially no single files on individuals. This is a violation of HIPPA policy. Of all the people to not give access to records, politicians are at the top of the list. It would only really serve nefarious purposes.
    Like (58)
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    This is a violation of health privacy (HIPAA) and congress has no business trying to play doctor or God. VOTE NAY on this intrusion.
    Like (15)
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    I don't think government should have access to a vet's data. Especially when it may lead to a label so the govt can take this data and use it against the vet, e.g. Second Amendment rights.
    Like (10)
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    The only accomplishment this bill will go to serve if passed will be adding to the already stagnant bureaucratic congestion that permeates both Congress and the VA.
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    Who in congress is actually qualified to evaluate medical records? I realize there are 20 physicians out of 535 members, but are they up to date on their certifications? Do they still practice medicine? Do Vets really need to give private information to them?
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    Seems like an invasion of privacy. Congress has no business having direct access to such personal data as health records. Only medical professionals should be able to access and interpret health records.
    Like (8)
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    NO! NO! Why are veterans' medical records less private than other citizens? And since when are Congressional aides qualified by experience or training to review case files? A physician needs 4 years of full time training; how could an aide even come close to being qualified with a quickie program? This bill deserves to die a quick painful death.
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    Politicians do not need access to medical records.
    Like (7)
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    If Members had proved themselves to be trustworthy & truly concerned with constituent services, this might be okay. They have not. As evidence I point to Rep Ryan not allowing anyone who was actually poor to testify at his hearings about poverty. Also, during the Planned Parenthood kerfuffle, not one member of the committee had bothered to learn the way in which women's healthcare is delivered in the United States. In both cases the disregard & disrespect for ordinary citizens was palpable & insulting! Members' focus is purely on self-interest & not on the welfare of individual citizens--which by all evidence they despise! Also, congressional staff are not neutral observers: they are directly dependent on the Member for their jobs. They lack normal employee protections. Allowing people who are tied by financial need to corrupt politicians to invade the privacy of veterans at their most vulnerable is not a good idea! So. HELL NO!
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    I can not see where this would help veterans with post service health care. Anytime you put additional government employees on the books , it slows the process. The military does a poor job of documentation of service people's history. No matter if it is health or job connected. Adding additional employees related to congress is not the answer. When a service person signed up whether drafted or regular enlistment, there is no question this country owes them a little respect with the VA. We spend money foolishly on many projects but it is easier to turn your backs on service people, elderly and disabled.
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    Medical records are between the patient, doctor and insurance only. Congressional aides, certified or not, don't fall into any of these categories. If you need to make work for your aides, perhaps you don't need as many aides. People are losing entirely too much of their privacy, be it medical records, NSA searches, or whatever. This needs to stop.
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    It should be the veterans' choice to have someone review their medical record. Having a non-medical, political person reviewing the chart won't add value to his/her's care. There is already a system for quality improvement in place. Congress should insure that employees can stop the line or report concerns without penalty to protect the quality of care.
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    Please tell the sponsor, no, no, no. I am a disabled vet. I don't want government job enlargement. I want the VA to uphold their stated mission and the jobs and tasks obligated quickly and correctly the first time. If not fire the miscreant and immediate supervisor. The message will percolate we vets will not be jerked around forever. Zero defects.
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    Historically vets have been treated well once they left the military. That ended with the Vietnam war veterans. Ironically, the public treated the returning veterans like shit, while the government treated them well. Now the government treats us like shit, while the people love us and respect what we stand for... except for the liberals, who hate anything to do with the military. Guns, ships, tanks, planes, and the troops. The government needs to return to the older ways that they treated the veterans, with respect and dignity. Instead they created a bureaucracy that named US as "potential terrorists "......I say screw you, for dumping all over us. We are 2% of the entire country's population. That's all. You tell me that you can't show us even the same care as the welfare recipients ? I ALMOST feel like the confederate troops were treated after the north won the Civil War. As former enemy combatants. Yeah that is the exact way that I feel we are treated. I apologize for my language, but I am saying it like I see it. I am NOT politically correct now that I have left the Army. You politicians are supposed to have our backs, since at one time or another, we had YOUR backs. Now I, like most of America believe that you politicians would rather have your power than our interests as your only concern. I have news for you. I WILL hold you accountable. Your actions determines my vote, and my political activism. Now I want everyone in Congress to stop, stop right now, and read the Constitution. Don't read anything into it, just read it as it is written. Then, remember that YOU work for ME, and every American.
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    VHA and VBA are separate beasts. Also, I'm not clear on how giving someone read-only access will speed things up.
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    Are they crazy now?!?! These guys are losing their mind.
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    Localized, direct-consultations/care, is what our veterans deserve. They don't need some far away bureaucrats consulting on their cases. These are American heroes and deserve heroic care(.). Oh and I would consider myself a liberal.
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    This bill would not allow these employees to make any changes to veterans' information, but it would increase the number of people working on correctly categorising needs and allocating resources for veterans' needs. Several people have noted that this doesn't fix the root problem, and while that's true, it doesn't mean it's an inconsequential effort. Particularly positive is that accrediting employees with access would be financially funded by the individual budgets of different congress members. This means that constituents could contact their representatives to request that funds be diverted for veterans within their community.
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    There is no certaintity the congressional employee will have proper training and be able to affectively interpret cases. Want to expedite the process? Don't push it onto congress. Hold the VA accountable or increase their funding.
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