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Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)

How We Process Your Request

Once your request is received, CMS staff will log your request and assign a tracking number to it and provide an acknowlegment letter to you with that tracking number. The tracking number assigned is important to you as a requester because, it will enable us to locate your request and provide details on the status of your request.

All efforts are made to process your request within 20 working days from the date we receive it in the FOIA processing unit. Due to a variety of circumstances, however, for some requests it may take longer. This longer processing time is sometimes due to the volume of records requested and the number of request pending prior to receipt of your request. When we have a backlog of FOIA requests, we process them on a "first in" "first out" basis. The guidelines we follow in processing your FOIA request are detailed in our December 13, 1990 Federal Register Notice.  (See related links inside CMS at the bottom of the page.)

Expedited Process

Expedited processing is initiated when the FOIA requester asks for it. If a compelling need for disclosure is evident and this compelling need is evidenced by the fact that the records are required due to:

  1. An imminent threat to life and/or physical safety;
  2. The media demonstrates an urgency to inform the public concerning actual or alleged government activity; and/or,
  3. The requested records are needed to meet a deadline in litigation or a deadline imposed by a governmental agency for commenting on a proposed regulation.

If you think that we should expedite your request, please explain your reasons fully in your FOIA request letter.

Denials and Appeals

If we decide to withhold a record from you, in whole or in part, we will provide written notification to you of this decision. We will explain our reason(s) for withholding the record/information and describe how you may file an appeal. Any administrative appeal decision that upholds a denial will inform you of the basis for the denial and of your right to judicial review in federal courts.


FOIA authorizes us to assess the following three levels of fees: search fees, review fees and photocopying fees. The fees that we assess for a given request, however, are based upon the category of FOIA requester as detailed under the following fee categories.

Fee Categories:

For fee purposes, the FOIA requires that requesters be placed in one of the following three categories:

  1. Commercial use requesters
  2. Educational and scientific institutions and news media
  3. All others.

In line with FOIA, we charge commercial use requesters the costs of search, review and duplication, associated with processing their requests. We charge scientific, educational, and news media requesters the cost of duplication only, except that we provide the first 100 pages free of charge. We charge all other requesters the costs of search and duplication, except that the first two hours of search and the first 100 pages of duplications are free of charge.

It is assumed that you are willing to pay the fees as charged for processing your request. In your letter of request, you may specify the fee category in which you feel your request falls. You also may state the maximum amount of fees that you are willing to pay, or include a request for a fee waiver.

Fee Waivers

The FOIA permits agencies to waive fees if disclosure of the record(s) is in the public interest because it:
(a) is likely to contribute significantly to public understanding of the operations or activities of the government, and,
(b) is not primarily in the commercial interest of the requester.

If you believe that your request meets both of the above tests, you can request a waiver or reduction of fees at the time that you submit your FOIA request. You must fully document and justify your waiver request by written explanation.


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Page Last Modified: 12/07/2005 12:40:00 PM
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