The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) released a new set of ethics principles on Feb. 22 for stakeholders both inside and outside of the agency to follow in an effort to better protect veterans’ data.

The new ethics framework includes nine principles for veterans, VA staff, partners, and other stakeholders to adhere to when managing or viewing VA data. The framework was developed by “the Data Ethics Work Group established by the VA Interoperability Leadership team and the Veterans Health Administration’s (VHA) National Center for Ethics in Health Care, along with input from veterans,” according to a Feb. 22 VA news release.

“VA’s principle-based ethics framework takes a proactive approach to data management and privacy by setting standards for our partners to follow,” Acting VA Under Secretary for Health Richard Stone said in a statement. “VA is applying this framework to all data interoperability initiatives, including those tied to our COVID-19 response and modernization efforts.”

According to a new VA online resource, the nine principles are:

  • The primary goal for use of veteran data is for the good of veterans.
  • Veteran data should be used in a manner that ensures equity to veterans.
  • The sharing of veteran data should be based on the veteran’s meaningful choice.
  • Access to and exchange of veteran data should be transparent and consistent.
  • De-identified veteran data should not be reidentified without authorization.
  • There is an obligation of reciprocity for gains made using veteran data.
  • All parties are obligated to ensure data security, quality, and integrity of veteran data.
  • Veterans should be able to access their own information.
  • Veterans have the right to request amendments to their own information.

The VA plans to have all of its “directives, policies, and standards” reflect these new principles by the end of 2022.

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Grace Dille
Grace Dille
Grace Dille is MeriTalk's Assistant Managing Editor covering the intersection of government and technology.