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VA Privacy Service

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VA Privacy Act Requests

Individuals, or their legally authorized representatives, may request access to and copies of records about themselves as held by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) in a Privacy Act System of Records, Requests made against data not held in a VA System of Record may be processed under the Freedom of Information Act. Individuals may also request the correction of their information maintained in a VA Privacy Act System of Record following the Contesting Record Process outlined in VA system of records notice. Individuals may use the Privacy Act complaint process if they believe these rights are being violated.

What is a Privacy Act request?

As noted in the Privacy Act (5 U.S.C. § 552a (2018)), any individual may exercise certain rights regarding his or her record as held by VA in a Privacy Act System of Records. These privacy rights to the records include:

  • inspect the records in their original form even if on paper
  • have a copy made of all or any portion thereof
  • permit the individual to request correction of a record and request a review of a refusal
  • provide the individual a list of disclosures made of their record

The Privacy Act pertains only to personal information that is maintained in a "system of records", which is defined as a group of agency-controlled records from which information is retrieved by name or a unique identifier, such as an individual's social security number or employee identification number. The Privacy Act further defines a "record" as any individually identifiable set of information that an agency might maintain about a person. For example, a record that may be sought by an individual includes employment records.

VA’s Privacy Act regulations implementing the Privacy Act are 38 CFR §§1.575 – 1.582.

How is this different than a Freedom of Information Act Request?

The Privacy Act and the FOIA are often read in tandem; The Privacy Act allows individuals to access records about themselves, while the FOIA allows the public to access government information.

The Privacy Act provides individuals with a means to access government records about themselves. The right of access under the Privacy Act is similar to that of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), and the statutes do overlap, but not entirely. While the Privacy Act was designed to provide individuals with more control over the gathering, dissemination, and accuracy of agency information about themselves, FOIA was intended to increase the public’s access to governmental information.”). The FOIA is entirely an access statute and “is often explained as a means for citizens to know ‘what their Government is up to.

Thus, the primary difference between the FOIA and the access provision of the Privacy Act is the scope of information accessible under each statute. If an individual requests copies of their own records, it will be processed first under the Privacy Act then, if necessary, under FOIA. An individual does not need to cite both the Privacy Act and FOIA for their right of access request to be processed appropriately under both.

For more information, please refer to the Department of Justice Overview of the Privacy Act of 1974 (2020 Edition).

More information on how to submit a FOIA request can be found at: https://www.va.gov/FOIA/Requests.asp.

How can you submit a Privacy Act request?

The Privacy Act allows individuals to seek records about themselves that are maintained in a VA Privacy Act System of Records. For a list of VA systems of records visit the VA Privacy Act System of Records Notices (SORNs) webpage. Such a request may be processed under both the Privacy Act and the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to ensure the greatest possible disclosure of records allowed under the law.

In general, Privacy Act requests for notification, access to, or correction or amendment of Privacy Act records must be submitted by the individual to the VA official listed in the VA SORN under the Contesting Records Procedures. Because records are maintained in various locations across VA there is no single location for requesting actions on such records.

Please note that VA will notify you if further information is required or if your request lacks sufficient information to enable us to process it. You should keep a copy of your request as a reference for further correspondence with VA. Requests for amendment may be submitted only after the individual has previously requested and been granted access to the record and has inspected or been provided a copy of the record. Please note it is important to include a specific description of the information to be amended and to provide copies of available evidence supporting the request as the burden of proof rests with the requesting individual.

VBA Privacy Act Requests

Privacy Act requests for notification, access to, or correction or amendment of VBA Privacy Act records, such as compensation and pension records, must be submitted by the individual by mail, fax, or electronically with their signed request and identifying information such as full name, date of birth, and place of birth to the VA Intake Center in Janseville, Wisconsin. Submission of a social security number may aid in identification of records. Privacy Act requests may be submitted by individuals for their own records on VA Form 20-10206.

Department of Veterans Affairs
Claims Intake Center
P.O. Box 4444
Janesville, WI 53547-4444
Fax: 844-531-7818
DID: 608-373-6690
FOIA.vbarmc@va.gov

VHA Privacy Act Requests

Privacy Act requests for notification, access to, or correction or amendment of VHA medical records must be submitted by the individual in person, by mail or fax with their signed request and identification information, such as full name and date of birth, to the VA Medical Facility where the individual received care. VA Form 10-5345a may be used by the individual to submit a written request for their own medical records.

For other VHA Privacy Act records, please follow the processes outlined in the VA System of Records Notice under Contesting Records Procedures.

What if your Privacy Act request is denied?

The Privacy Act of 1974 (5 U.S.C. § 552a) provides that agencies will provide the right to amend records on individuals within its possession unless one of ten exemptions apply. The exact language of the exemptions can be found in the Privacy Act of 1974 (5 U.S.C. § 552a). VA regulations at 38 CFR § 1.582 - Exemptions provide a complete listing of all VA exempt Privacy Act systems of records.

If a submitted Privacy Act amendment request is denied, you have the right to appeal.

Any individual’s request to amend their own record in a Privacy Act system of records that is denied may be appealed to the VA Office of General Counsel. Information on how to appeal should be provided in the written response of denial from VA.

VA’s Privacy Act regulations implementing the Privacy Act are 38 CFR §§1.575 – 1.582.

**Please DO NOT send Personally Identifiable Information (PII) such as social security numbers, or claims numbers via unprotected email as it puts your information at risk / If you are having trouble accessing the records portal send an email to autofoia.vbaco@va.gov.