Veterans Affairs officials want to change when veterans can view some of their medical records online, fearing that some could becomeÂ violent if they see negative comments and think their disability claims will beÂ denied.
Jordain Carney is a defense reporter at National Journal. She previously worked as a staff writer for the Hotline, covering congressional and gubernatorial elections in the South. Jordain graduated from the University of Arkansas with a bachelor’s degree in English, political science, and … Full Bio
Veterans must get a medical exam as part of the process for filing a disability claim for a service-related injury. Within days or weeks of the exam, veterans can see the doctorâ€™s forms or notes by using the â€śBlue Buttonâ€ť onÂ My HealtheVet,Â the VAâ€™s website for healthÂ records.
A group of department officials said Monday that they fear some veterans could see the notes from the exam, assume from this partial picture that their claim is being denied, and take out their anger on local VA officials. They voiced their safety concerns Monday to members of the departmentâ€™s Advisory Committee on Disability Compensation at their meeting this week inÂ Washington.
â€śHe walks past the [compensation-and-pension] clinic, and heâ€™s very angry. Goes into the C-and-P clinic, and we have an incident of some kind,â€ť said Gerald Cross, the chief officer in the Veterans Health Administrationâ€™s office of disability and medical assessment.Â â€ťSome of our C-and-P clinics are quite small, â€¦ and it doesnâ€™t have much in the way of reasonable defense. Weâ€™re very concerned aboutÂ that.â€ť
Patricia Murray, the director of the VAâ€™s clinical program and administrative operations, said that to try to prevent any misunderstandings, the VA is removing the compensation-and-pension medical exam from a veteranâ€™sÂ online health record until after a decision on his or her disability claim has beenÂ made.
â€śI think sometimes when they see [the medical records], they think the determination to grant [benefits] is solely based on the C-and-P file,â€ť she said, adding that â€śour examiners feel like theyâ€™re sometimes atÂ risk.â€ť
But some committee members were concerned about removing the compensation-and-pension exam records, but not other health documents, from theÂ website.
â€śI hate to say this, but what is the ethical justification of removing the C-and-P exams from the Blue Button?â€ť asked Michael Simberkoff, executive chief of staff at the VAâ€™s NY Harbor HealthcareÂ System.
But department officials tied the move to one factor: Potential risk to VA staffers. In addition to changing when a veteran can see part of his or her file online, they are also considering adding extra security to the clinics, such as requiring a code to unlockÂ doors.
â€śMany of the C-and-P docs are females, and they seem to be the ones that seem to have the evening hours or are in these far-flung [clinics],â€ť said Denny Devine, the VAâ€™s project executive for disability and medical assessments. â€śThose are the ones on our weekly calls raising theseÂ concerns.â€ť
The VA received more than 1 million requests for disability exams during fiscal 2014. It has almost 527,500 pay and pension claims currently waiting to be decided, with more than 46 percentâ€”or 244,727â€”waiting more than 125 days for aÂ decision.