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Freedom of Information Act

Like all federal agencies, HRSA is required under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to disclose records requested in writing by any person unless the records (or a part of the records) are protected from disclosure by any of the nine exemptions contained in the law. The Electronic Freedom of Information Act Amendments of 1996 (e-FOIA) required HRSA to establish a publicly accessible Electronic Reading Room. HRSA also maintains an actual FOIA Public Reading Room, open from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday at the HRSA Freedom of Information Office in Rockville, MD.

How to Submit a HRSA FOIA Request

Before submitting a FOIA request, you should ensure that the information you seek is not already in the public domain.

Obtaining Public Information
Public information documents, such as press releases, consumer publications, speeches, and congressional testimony, are available from HRSA without a FOIA request. Many of these documents are available on this Web site. We encourage you to search the site for documents of interest. You may also search the Government Information Locator Service (GILS).

Obtaining Information Through FOIA
Any individual may submit a FOIA request to HRSA by mail, fax, e-mail or in person. The request must be in writing. Telephone requests cannot be processed. Address your fax, e-mail, or written request to:

Health Resources and Services Administration
Office of Communications
FOIA Requester Service Center
5600 Fishers Lane, Rm. 14-15
Rockville, Maryland 20857
fax: 301-480-5285

In your request, identify the record(s) that you want. If you do not know the exact title, describe the record as specifically as possible. The more details that you can provide, such as author, title, date, subject matter, and location, the better. A vague or incomplete description could delay our response or prevent us from finding the records you want. We may ask you to clarify your request if necessary.

FOIA staff will log your request, assign a tracking number to it and send you a letter acknowledging receipt of your request. This number is important to you because it will enable us to check the status of your request.

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.

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, and
  3. all others.

In line with FOIA, we charge commercial use requesters the costs of search, review and duplication associated with processing requests. We charge scientific, educational and news media requesters the cost of duplication only (the first 100 pages are free of charge). We charge all other requesters the costs of search and duplication (the first two hours of search and the first 100 pages of duplication are free of charge). You will be billed only if the total processing charges are $25 or more.

We assume that you are willing to pay the fees we charge for processing your request. In your letter of request, you may specify the fee category in which you believe your request falls. You also may state the maximum amount of fees that you are willing to pay.

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 these tests, you may request a waiver or reduction of fees when you make your FOIA request. Be sure to fully document and justify your waiver request.

How We Process Your Request
We try to handle your request within 20 working days from the date we receive it. Sometimes it may take longer depending on the kind of record(s) you request and the number of requests ahead of yours. FOIA requests are processed on a first in, first out basis. The guidelines we follow in processing your FOIA request are detailed in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Implementing Public Information Regulations.

Expedited Process
We provide expedited processing when disclosure of the records is necessary because of a compelling need. This is the case when the requester: (1) demonstrates an imminent threat to life or physical safety; and (2) is a member of the media and demonstrates urgency to inform the public concerning actual or alleged government activity. We also will expedite your request if you show that 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 would like your request expedited, please explain your reasons in your FOIA request.

Denials and Appeals
If a record is determined to be exempt from release under the FOIA, 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.

Related Links

U.S. Department of Health & Human Services Freedom of Information

U.S. Department of Justice Freedom of Information

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