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Military Health System

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Military Command Exception

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) permits protected health information (PHI) of Armed Forces personnel to be disclosed under special circumstances. Commonly referred to as the Military Command Exception, covered entities such as military treatment facilities may disclose the PHI of Armed Forces personnel to Command authorities for authorized activities.

These activities include fitness for duty determinations, fitness to perform a particular assignment, or other activities necessary for the military mission. PHI disclosed to military command authorities, while no longer subject to HIPAA, remains protected under the Privacy Act of 1974.

Mental Health and/or Substance Abuse Disclosures

DOD supports the provision of mental health care and voluntarily seeks substance abuse education to Armed Forces personnel while maintaining a balance between patient confidentiality rights and Command notification. Therefore, covered entities are not permitted to notify a Service member’s Commander when the member obtains these services, unless certain conditions are met, such as displaying a serious risk of harm to self, others, or the mission.

Medical Appointment Reminders

Command authorities may require notification of medical appointments for Armed Forces personnel for mission purposes, such as assignment coverage. Medical appointment notifications include treatment reminders, such as physicals, immunizations, labs, etc., and missed and cancelled appointments.

Non-Military Providers

The above guidance may be relied upon by covered entities outside of DOD, such as non-government hospitals and other private health care providers and health plans.

Last Updated: August 26, 2022
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