38 CFR 1.493 - Procedures and criteria for orders authorizing disclosures for noncriminal purposes.
(a)Application. An order authorizing the disclosure of patient records covered by §§ 1.460 through 1.499 of this part for purposes other than criminal investigation or prosecution may be applied for by any person having a legally recognized interest in the disclosure which is sought. The application may be filed separately or as part of a pending civil action in which it appears that the patient records are needed to provide evidence. An application must use a fictitious name, such as John Doe, to refer to any patient and may not contain or otherwise disclose any patient identifying information unless the patient is the applicant or has given a written consent (meeting the requirements of § 1.475 of this part) to disclosure or the court has ordered the record of the proceeding sealed from public scrutiny.
(b)Notice. The patient and VA facility from whom disclosure is sought must be given:
(1) Adequate notice in a manner which will not disclose patient identifying information to other persons; and
(2) An opportunity to file a written response to the application, or to appear in person, for the limited purpose of providing evidence on whether the statutory and regulatory criteria for the issuance of the court order are met.
(c)Review of evidence: Conduct of hearing. Any oral argument, review of evidence, or hearing on the application must be held in the judge's chambers or in some manner which ensures that patient identifying information is not disclosed to anyone other than a party to the proceeding, the patient, or VA, unless the patient requests an open hearing in a manner which meets the written consent requirements of § 1.475 of this part. The proceeding may include an examination by the judge of the patient records referred to in the application.
(d)Criteria for entry of order. An order under this section may be entered only if the court determines that good cause exists. To make this determination the court must find that:
(1) Other ways of obtaining the information are not available or would not be effective; and
(e)Content of order. An order authorizing a disclosure must:
(2) Limit disclosure to those persons whose need for information is the basis for the order; and
(3) Include such other measures as are necessary to limit disclosure for the protection of the patient, the physician-patient relationship and the treatment services; for example, sealing from public scrutiny the record of any proceeding for which disclosure of a patient's record has been ordered.