15 March 2013

VA Hides (?) Documents from FOIA Release?

It grows curiouser and curiouser. Last year, the C-123 Veterans Administration submitted through LtCol Paul Bailey a comprehensive FOIA requesting release of materials used before and after the first few conferences we had between us, our congressional representatives, and officials of the VA's Benefits Administration and Health Administration.

The FOIA was initially denied, appealed and eventually wasn't exactly denied, but the VA did insist on a cost-prohibive $4500 to respond. Apparently the amount and the scope of the documents involved were just too much to release otherwise. We don't have that kind of money in our little group.

We appealed, stating in great detail our justification for the fee waiver and resubmitted the request and greatly reducing the scope of our request and using the channels offered by the National Archives and Records Administration. They operate as a helpful mediation service between federal agencies and requesters. Laying out all our reasons for the fees to be waived, we submitted our appeal.

Yesterday, the result dated 11 March 2013 came directly from the VA's Office of the General Counsel. Their assistant general counsel advised the C-123 Veterans that, so sorry, no there are no documents available.

"Subsequent to your appeal, we contacted VBA personnel and learned that they conducted an appropriate search for responsive documents and found none. We also contacted the Office of the Secretary and learned that no one individual maintains records responsive to your request."

In no way do we doubt the character of the letter from the VA's Assistant General Counsel. What we find amazing is that records so extensive that the VA needed $4500 to gather and duplicate them when requested back in 2012, by March 2013 suddenly don't exist at all. 

Golly, we should've paid the $4500 before VA dumped the files!

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