Earlier this year, the U.S. Veterans Affairs Administration denied the Tampa Tribune’s Freedom of Information Act request for the names of VA hospitals where veterans died because of delays in medical screenings.
To hide this information, the VA used the “pre-decisional” exemption, simply stating that the requested documents were “preliminary” communications and could thus be withheld. This misapplication was not an isolated incident. Agency use of this catch-all exemption has skyrocketed to more than 12 percent of all FOIA requests, often to prevent embarrassment or hide errors and failures – ignoring President Barack Obama’s clear instructions to the contrary.
Fortunately, U.S. Sens. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., and John Cornyn, R-Texas, working in one of Washington’s last bastions of bipartisanship, have introduced a bill that will stem this abuse. The FOIA Improvement Act of 2014 will make it easier for everyday Americans to use the law to request and receive documents, such as the Veterans Affairs records, in three key ways. Continue>>>