Thanks for the chance to assist.
There are privacy protections, even for members of the military...but like other rights, the right to privacy of military members is more limited than their civilian counterparts.
The primary privacy protection for individuals in the US is the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). HIPAA is set of laws that, among other things, provides a measure of privacy for medical records. HIPAA generally prevents disclosure of patient records...however, the application of HIPAA within the military is a bit different than, for example, a typical employer.DoD
Regulation 6025.18-R, "DoD Health Information Privacy Regulation", January 2003, Section C188.8.131.52. states "a covered entity (including a covered entity not part of or affiliated with the Department of Defense) may use and disclose the protected health information (PHI) of individuals who are Armed Forces
personnel for activities deemed necessary by appropriate military command authorities to assure the proper execution of the military mission."
What the above states is that a commander can access medical records (and talk with physicians about the records) if it is necessary for the "proper execution of the military mission". So, if the commander has a concern for a soldiers
health and that concern extends to a concern for his ability to meet the mission, the commander can inquire into the health status of the soldier. What can this cover...really, if your a member of the unit and there is a concern for your health, your record of treatment is fair inquiry for the commander.
So, what is the Doctor required to tell...the doctor is required to respond to the inquiry of the commander if the Doctor is part of a Military Medical Treatment Facility (basically, if they are a doctor on base and the commander requests information, the doctor will respond). There is not a limitation to this (other than the "proper execution of the military mission"-however, if the soldier is part of the unit the commander can inquire into their health.
Can you be ordered to disclose? Well, under Art 31b, UCMJ, the commander can not order you to provide ANY information that could incriminate you. Aside from that, the commander would be limited by Art 92, UCMJ...that is if the commander gave an order and it was "lawful", and you did not obey the order, you could be prosecuted under Art 92, UCMJ. SO, is an order to provide information from your most recent doctors appointment a "lawful"? An order is lawful if it relates to a valid military function and is not otherwise unlawful....I would bet that an order from the commander (we are talking battalion commander
when we talk commander...NOT 1st Sergeant...Not Platoon Leader) to disclose medial information, so long as it relates to an individual in the command would likely be lawful
So, what can you do if ordered...If ordered by a Staff NCO or someone subordinate to the commander, I would request to speak with the commander and provide the information to the commander only. You have a valid concern...your medical history should NOT be common knowledge in the Battalion. Its the job of the commander to prevent this. Share your concerns with the commander (again, Battalion level) and allow them to do their job.
What if your commander is improperly spreading the information? Then you can complain under Art 138, UCMJ.
There is a good overview on this matter (tricare
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