§ 17.508 - Access to quality assurance records and documents within the agency.
(a) Access to confidential and privileged quality assurance records and documents within the Department pursuant to this section is restricted to VA employees (including consultants and contractors of VA) who have a need for such information to perform their government duties or contractual responsibilities and who are authorized access by the VA medical facility Director, Regional Director, the Under Secretary for Health, or their designees or by the regulations in §§ 17.500 through 17.511.
(b) To foster continuous quality improvement, practitioners on VA rolls, whether paid or not, will have access to confidential and privileged quality assurance records and documents relating to evaluation of the care they provided.
(c) Any quality assurance record or document, whether confidential and privileged or not, may be provided to the General Counsel or any attorney within the Office of General Counsel, wherever located. These documents may also be provided to a Department of Justice (DOJ) attorney who is investigating a claim or potential claim against the VA or who is preparing for litigation involving the VA. If necessary, such a record or document may be removed from the VA medical facility to the site where the General Counsel or any attorney within the Office of General Counsel or the DOJ attorney is conducting an investigation or preparing for litigation.
(d) Any quality assurance record or document or the information contained therein, whether confidential and privileged or not, will be provided to the Department of Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General upon request. A written request is not required.
(e) To the extent practicable, documents accessed under paragraph (b) of this section will not include the identity of peer reviewers. Reasonable efforts will be made to edit documents so as to protect the identities of reviewers, but the inability to completely do so will not bar access under paragraph (b).
(f) No individual shall be permitted access to confidential and privileged quality assurance records and documents identified in § 17.501 unless such individual has been informed of the penalties for unauthorized disclosure. Any misuse of confidential and privileged quality assurance records or documents shall be reported to the appropriate VHA official, e.g., Service Chief, Medical Center Director.
(g) In general, confidential and privileged quality assurance records and documents will be maintained for a minimum of 3 years and may be held longer if needed for research studies or quality assurance or legal purposes.