BASIC (09-05)

GN 03316.135 Disclosures Without Consent in Health and Safety Situations

A. Policy

Under the Privacy Act (5 U.S.C. § 552a(b)(8)), you may disclose non-tax return information in compelling circumstances affecting the health or safety of an individual. SSA may initiate a disclosure or respond to a request from an entity that could take action on the information disclosed.

In these cases, the Privacy Act requires SSA to send a notice to the subject individual informing him/her that the disclosure has been made. The Privacy Act does not mandate a time period during which this notification must be sent. See GN 03312.065.

EXAMPLE:

You may disclose information to:

  • The police or another appropriate party for the location, prosecution or detention of an individual who has threatened another individual (including an SSA employee).

  • An appropriate mental health clinic, agency, hotline, etc., to report a threatened suicide.

There are also rare occasions in which a public or hospital official needs to identify a deceased, amnesiac, unconscious or mentally incapacitated person. You may provide information in this situation if the requester cannot obtain it from any other source. Unless the person has filed a claim, the Form SS-5 would probably be SSA’s main source of information.

Also, the DDS may disclose information to any public agency (such as a State Health Department) responsible for the identification, location or treatment of individuals who have medical conditions that are legally reportable and perilous to the health or safety of themselves or the public.

The Privacy Act does not require us to warn individuals of threats made to their personal health and safety by other individuals, nor does it prohibit us from doing so, when such information is contained in our records. Under compelling circumstances, when responding to a request or initiating a disclosure to local law enforcement concerning a person causing a threat, we may likely want to warn the individual whose personal health or safety is being threatened. Consult with the regional PAC for additional guidance if the circumstances of the disclosure indicate or suggest that we warn the individual whose personal health or safety is being threatened.

B. Procedure

The component receiving a request may disclose relevant information if the request demonstrates a compelling circumstance affecting the health and safety of an individual if in the opinion of the component’s manager such a circumstance exists.If there are any questions concerning the appropriateness of the disclosure, contact the regional or component Privacy Act Coordinator (PAC) for advice. As necessary, the regional or component PAC should consult with the Office of Public Disclosure, Office of the General Counsel, for advice (see http://sharepoint2007.ba.ssa.gov/ogc/employeeinfo/sub/officelist.aspx?function=Privacy and Disclosure for contact information).

If a disclosure is made, send a notice to the individual whose record was disclosed. The following is suggested language for the notice:

This to advise you the Social Security Administration recently released information about you to the _________________________ in a compelling circumstance involving the health and safety of an individual.  We made this disclosure in accordance with the Privacy Act (5 U.S.C. 552a(b)(8)) and SSA regulations (20 C.F.R. § 401.160). Both the Privacy Act and our regulations permit us to disclose information in a compelling circumstance affecting the health and safety of an individual.

If you want information about the information we released, you can contact our office. If you contact our office, please refer to this notice.


To Link to this section - Use this URL:
http://policy.ssa.gov/poms.nsf/lnx/0203316135
GN 03316.135 - Disclosures Without Consent in Health and Safety Situations - 03/13/2013
Batch run: 03/13/2013
Rev:03/13/2013
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