GovCIO: VA Increased FOIA Processing Thanks to Automation

“Over the past two years, federal agencies have been inundated with requests under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) — the law that enables citizens to directly engage with government by requesting access to certain files and records. Pandemic-related challenges exacerbated agency FOIA teams working to process those requests under changing circumstances and working environments.”

“With the presidential administration’s call for agencies to improve service delivery and rebuild trust in government, improving processing times for FOIA requests is one way to ensure agencies are continuing to meet their obligation to the legislation.”

“As the largest of the federal civilian agencies, the Department of Veterans Affairs has one of the most active FOIA departments. Requests from the public have included a multitude of different areas — benefits claims, medical records, grant awards, emails, meeting notes and more.”

“In fiscal year 2021, the agency received more FOIA requests than it did in fiscal year 2019 — from 21,336 to 27,762. From a preliminary glance at the full list of these requests, one can see many of the requests received in 2021 pertained to things like COVID debt relief data, vaccination rates and other matters that were pertinent to the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic.”

“The amount of requests it was able to process dipped in fiscal 2020. This is in part due to the disruption in working location, the need for increased remote access to systems and the influx of paper mail. Plus, like many U.S. hospitals, the agency had to handle unprecedented numbers of patients sick with COVID-19 and stand up a nationwide vaccination effort quickly.”

“The number of requests the agency processed, however, rose again in fiscal 2021 and surpassed the amount processed before the pandemic. Part of this is thanks to its FOIA office introducing more automation into its workflows…” Read the full article here.

Source: VA Increased FOIA Processing Thanks to Automation – By Adam Patterson and Amy Kluber, May 11, 2022. GovCIO.



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