§ 1.525 - Inspection of records by or disclosure of information to recognized representatives of organizations and recognized attorneys.
(a)(1) The accredited representatives of recognized organizations (§ 14.627 of this chapter) holding appropriate power of attorney and recognized attorneys (§ 14.629(b) of this chapter) with the written authorization of the claimant may, subject to the restrictions imposed by paragraph (a)(2) of this section, inspect the claims, insurance and allied folders of any claimant upon the condition that only such information contained therein as may be properly disclosed under §§ 1.500 through 1.526 will be disclosed by him or her to the claimant or, if the claimant is incompetent, to his or her legally constituted fiduciary. Under the same restrictions, it is permissible to release information from and permit inspection of loan guaranty folders in which a request for a waiver of the debt of a veteran or his or her spouse has been received, or where there has been a denial of basic eligibility for loan guaranty benefits. All other information in the files shall be treated as confidential and will be used only in determining the status of the cases inspected or in connection with the presentation to officials of the Department of Veterans Affairs of the claim of the claimant. The heads of field facilities and the directors of the services concerned in Central Office will each designate a responsible officer to whom requests for all files must be made, except that managers of centers with insurance activities will designate two responsible officials, recommended by the division chiefs concerned, one responsible for claims and allied folders and the other for insurance files. The term claimant as used in this paragraph includes insureds.
(2) In the case of a living veteran a representative acting under a power of attorney from any person not acting on behalf of the veteran will not be permitted to review the records of the veteran or be furnished any information therefrom to which the person is not entitled, i.e., information not relating to such person alone. Powers of attorney submitted by the other person will be considered “Limited” and will be so noted when associated with the veteran's records. The provisions of this subparagraph are also applicable to recognized attorneys and the requisite declarations filed by them.
(3) When power of attorney does not obtain, the accredited representative will explain to the designated officer of the Department of Veterans Affairs the reason for requesting information from the file, and the information will be made available only when in the opinion of the designated officer it is justified; in no circumstances will such representatives be allowed to inspect the file; in such cases a contact report will be made out and attached to the case, outlining the reasons which justify the verbal or written release of the information to the accredited representative.
(4) In any case where there is an unrevoked power of attorney or declaration of representation, no persons or organizations other than the one named in such document shall be afforded information from the file except under the conditions set forth in § 14.629(b)(2) of this chapter. When any claimant has filed notice with the Department of Veterans Affairs that he or she does not want his or her file inspected, such file will not be made available for inspection.
(b)(1) Inspection of folders by accredited representatives or recognized attorneys holding a written authorization where such cases are being processed shall be in space assigned for such inspection. Otherwise station heads may permit inspection of folders at the desks of the accredited representatives, in the office(s) which they regularly occupy.
(2) An insured or after maturity of the insurance by death of the insured, the beneficiary, may authorize the release to a third person of such insurance information as the insured or the beneficiary would be entitled to receive, provided there is submitted to the Department of Veterans Affairs, a specific authorization in writing for this purpose.
(3) Unless otherwise authorized by the insured or the beneficiary, as the case may be, such authorized representative, recognized attorney or accredited representative shall not release information as to the designated beneficiary to anyone other than the insured or to the beneficiary after death of the insured. Otherwise, information in the insurance file shall be subject to the provisions of §§ 1.500 through 1.526.
(4) Clinical records and medical files, including files for outpatient treatment, may be inspected by accredited representatives or recognized attorneys holding a written authorization only to the extent such records or parts thereof are incorporated in the claims folder, or are made available to Department of Veterans Affairs personnel in the adjudication of the claim. Records or data in clinical or medical files which are not incorporated in the claims folder or which are not made available to Department of Veterans Affairs personnel for adjudication purposes will not be inspected by anyone other than those employees of the Department of Veterans Affairs whose duties require same for the purpose of clinical diagnosis or medical treatment.
(5) Under no circumstances shall any paper be removed from a file, except by a Department of Veterans Affairs employee, for purpose of having an authorized copy made. Copying of material in a file shall not be permitted except in connection with the performance of authorized functions under the power of attorney or requisite declaration of a recognized attorney.
(6) In any case involving litigation against the Government, whether contemplated or initiated, inspection, subject to the foregoing, shall be within the discretion of the General Counsel or Regional Counsel, except that in insurance suits under 38 U.S.C. 1975, 1984, inspection shall be within the discretion of the official having jurisdiction of the claim. Files in such cases may be released to the Department of Justice, but close liaison will be maintained to insure their return intact upon termination of the litigation.
(c) Facility heads and the directors of the services concerned in central office will be responsible for the administrative compliance with and accomplishment of the foregoing within their jurisdiction, and any violations of the prescribed conditions for inspection of files or release of information therefrom will be brought to the immediate attention of the Secretary.
(d) Any person holding power of attorney, a recognized attorney who has filed the requisite declaration, or the accredited representative of a recognized organization holding power of attorney shall be supplied with a copy of each notice to the claimant respecting the adjudication of the claim. If a claimant dies before action on the claim is completed, the person or organization holding power of attorney or the attorney who has filed the requisite declaration may continue to act until the action is completed except where the power of attorney or requisite declaration was filed on behalf of a dependent.
(e) When in developing a claim the accredited representative of a recognized organization finds it necessary to call upon a local representative to assemble information or evidence, he or she may make such disclosures to the local representative as the circumstances of the case may warrant, provided the power of attorney to the recognized organization contains an authorization permitting such disclosure.