The CASES Act: Why privacy releases are about to go digital

By Seth Engel, Senior Product Marketing Manager, Docusign

Digital Privacy Act releases for constituent casework are almost here. Thanks to the recent passage of H.R. 1079, CASES Act, hundreds of thousands of constituents who request casework from their congressional representatives every year will soon have the option to submit a Privacy Act release electronically. Not only is this great news for constituents seeking help, but also for the district office caseworkers and agency staff who process these casework requests. It’s a win-win-win.

When a constituent needs help with a federal agency, they can call their member of Congress to help them navigate the bureaucracy. Before they can get help, though, the constituent needs to authorize their member of Congress to engage with a Federal agency on their behalf. Currently, federal law prohibits an agency from disclosing an individual’s record to another person or agency without written authorization or consent from the individual.

‘Written’ is the operative word here, because the Privacy Act requires a constituent to print, sign, and send their privacy release form to their congressional office via mail, fax, email, or in person. Currently, most Congressional offices utilize a paper-based authorization process. In addition, while most Federal agencies accept any signed document from an individual granting their member of Congress access to their records, some agencies require their own forms to be submitted to initiate a casework inquiry. During an emergency, when time is of the essence, and constituents need help the most, a paper-based process can be a hindrance to getting help.

The new legislation requires the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to create a uniform privacy release form to be used across all agencies and to issue guidance requiring all Federal agencies to accept electronic consent forms. OMB has a year to issue guidance and agencies have a year from that time to comply.

Like last year’s 21st Century Integrated Digital Experience Act, the CASES Act is a common-sense piece of legislation, long overdue, that will improve the constituent experience for millions, while reducing cost and hassle for federal staff. By transitioning to e-signature, government agencies deliver a better experience for constituents, reduce costs, and streamline processes.

Are you ready to get rid of paper at your agency and streamline processes? Learn more about the Docusign Agreement Cloud for Government.