Veterans Affairs Adds New Layer of FOIA Review

Policy will slow down approval of FOIA requests

• November 19, 2013 2:23 pm


Public records requests at the Department of Veterans Affairs will take longer than usual due to a new department policy subjecting Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests to additional review.

According to an Oct. 31 policy memo, all FOIA requests to Veterans Affairs (VA) will be reviewed by the director of the VA FOIA Service and the FOIA officers of separate department components.

"The purpose of the review will be for sensitivity determination after the request has been perfected and responsive records have been identified," the memo says.

The Department of Veterans Affairs did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

KUOW reporter John Ryan first obtained the memo after a VA public affairs officer told him an outstanding FOIA request would be delayed due to a new department policy.

According to the memo, the policy is temporary and will be reviewed in 90 days.

Several other federal agencies have introduced policies to increase the review of "significant" or "sensitive" public records requests.

Field offices of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) may not release records to "sensitive" FOIA requests without obtaining approval from three HUD offices.

Department of Defense FOIA offices are also prohibited from responding to "significant" FOIA requests without approval from the Pentagon.

Similar policies exist at the Treasury Department and Internal Revenue Service.

Government watchdog groups and transparency advocates argue such reviews slow down and introduce political pressure to the FOIA process.

Published under: Transparency, Veterans Affairs