|Submitted||June 27, 2018|
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To Whom It May Concern:
Pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act, I hereby request the following records:
All internal email communications between VA officials Scott Blackburn, Jake Leinenkugel, Tracy Gaudet, and Darin Selnick between Nov. 1, 2017 and present day concerning Boulder Crest veterans retreat. Keywords are "boulder crest," "PTSD," post-traumatic growth," "partnership" and "meet."
The requested documents will be made available to the general public, and this request is not being made for commercial purposes.
In the event that there are fees, I would be grateful if you would inform me of the total charges in advance of fulfilling my request. I would prefer the request filled electronically, by e-mail attachment if available or CD-ROM if not.
Thank you in advance for your anticipated cooperation in this matter. I look forward to receiving your response to this request within 20 business days, as the statute requires.
An acknowledgement letter, stating the request is being processed.
Good Afternoon Mr. Craven,
Attached to this message is VHA's acknowledgment of your FOIA Request. Ms. Amarah Dawes will be processing your request and her contact information is listed on the attached letter. Please let me know if you should have any questions.
I would kindly appreciate your confirmation of receipt of this email. A hard copy of the attached letter will not follow in postal mail unless specifically requested by you.
Ms. Tracy R. Cephas, Staff Assistant
VHA Central Office FOIA Office (10A7B)
810 Vermont Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20420
"I am a Disabled Army Veteran and former Army Civilian and I CARE!"
A no responsive documents response.
June 6, 2019 In Reply Refer To: 001B
FOIA Request: 18-09904-F
Dear Mr. Craven:
This is the Initial Agency Decision (IAD) to your Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to the Office of the Secretary, U.S. Dept. of Veterans Affairs (OSVA) dated and received June 27, 2018. You requested, as you phrase it:
"All internal email communications between VA officials Scott Blackburn, Jake Leinenkugel, Tracy Gaudet, and Darin Selnick between Nov. 1, 2017 and present day concerning Boulder Crest Veterans retreat. Keywords are 'boulder crest' 'PTSD' post-traumatic growth, 'partnership' and 'meet.'"
As a reminder, the VA OIT FOIA office is processing your FOIA request 18-09643-F for communications within the email boxes of Scott Blackburn. The VA OAWP FOIA office is processing your FOIA request 18-09905-F for communications within the email boxes of Tracy Gaudet.
IAD and December 19, 2018, Reasonable Search
On December 19, 2018, the OSVA FOIA Officer requested that the VA OIT office provide all responsive records within the email boxes of Darin Selnick or Jake Leinenkugel. On or about January 9, 2019, the VA OIT office provided all responsive records, with the OSVA FOIA Officer to conduct secondary searches.
On May 29, 2019, the OSVA FOIA Officer searched through the email boxes of Darin Selnick and Jake Leinenkugel with the date timeframe of November 1, 2017, to June 27, 2018, the dates you specified. The OSVA FOIA Officer looked for all emails to or from Scott Blackburn, Jake Leinenkugel, Tracy Gaudet, and Darin Selnick. The OSVA FOIA Officer used the search terms: ("Boulder Crest") AND (PTSD OR ("Post-Traumatic Growth") OR partnership OR meet). This May 29, 2019, Clearwell search yielded nine (9) pages of responsive records.
After reviewing the nine (9) pages, OSVA redacts some information with FOIA Exemption 6. 5 U.S.C. § 552(b)(6) exempts from required disclosure "personnel and medical files and similar files the disclosure of which would constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy." FOIA Exemption 6 permits VA to withhold a document or information within a document if disclosure of the information, either by itself or in conjunction with other information available to either the public or the FOIA requester, would result in an unwarranted invasion of an individual's personal privacy without contributing significantly to the public's understanding of the activities of the federal government. Specifically, the information being withheld, as indicated on the attached documents, under FOIA Exemption 6, consists of names, identities, email addresses, VA usernames, phone numbers, and cellular numbers of: federal employees and private citizens. We however release the names of VA Senior Executives. Federal employees and private citizens retain a significant privacy interest under certain circumstances, such as in instances where the release of their information could represent a threat to their well-being, harassment, or their ability to function within their sphere of employment. The federal employees whose information is at issue have a substantial privacy interest in their personal information. In weighing the private versus the public interest, we find that there is no public interest in knowing the names, identities, email addresses, VA usernames, phone numbers, and cellular numbers of: federal employees and private citizens. The coverage of FOIA Exemption 6 is absolute unless the FOIA requester can demonstrate a countervailing public interest in the requested information by demonstrating that the FOIA requester is in a position to provide the requested information to members of the general public and that the information requested contributes significantly to the public's understanding of the activities of the Federal government. Additionally, the requester must demonstrate how the public's need to understand the information significantly outweighs the privacy interest of the person to whom the information pertains. Upon consideration of the records, I have not been able to identify a countervailing public interest of sufficient magnitude to outweigh the privacy interest of the individuals whose names are redacted. The protected information has been redacted and (b)(6) inserted. Releasing even a single VA username reveals the pattern to ascertain VA usernames that VA employees use to log into VA Systems of Records; releasing VA usernames exposes the VA, its employees, and its contractors to potential hacking and information technology security liabilities and risks. "Withholding a telephone number or e-mail address, alone, is not sufficient to protect that [privacy] interest; alternate means of contacting and harassing these employees would be readily discoverable on the Internet if this court ordered their names disclosed." Long v. Immigration & Customs Enf't, 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 160719 (D.C. Cir. 2017).
As part of the 2007 FOIA amendments, the Office of Government Information Services (OGIS) was created to offer mediation services to resolve disputes between FOIA requesters and Federal agencies as a non-exclusive alternative to litigation. Using OGIS services does not affect your right to pursue litigation. Under the provisions of the FOIA Improvement Act of 2016, the following contact information is provided to assist FOIA requesters in resolving disputes:
VA Central Office FOIA Public Liaison:
Name: John Buck
Email Address: firstname.lastname@example.org<mailto:email@example.com>
Office of Government Information Services (OGIS)
Email Address: firstname.lastname@example.org<mailto:email@example.com>
National Archives and Records Administration
8601 Adelphi Road
College Park, MD 20740-6001
This concludes OSVA's IAD response to request 18-09904-F. Please be advised that should you desire to do so, you may appeal the determination made in this response to:
Office of General Counsel (024)
Department of Veterans Affairs
810 Vermont Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20420
If you should choose to file an appeal, please include a copy of this letter with your written appeal and clearly indicate the basis for your disagreement with the determination set forth in this response. Please be advised that in accordance with VA's implementing FOIA regulations at 38 C.F.R. § 1.559, your appeal must be postmarked no later than ninety (90) days of the date of this letter.
Richard Ha, JD, CIPP/G
OSVA FOIA Officer
Attachment - redacted nine (9) pages
Richard Ha, JD, CIPP/G
OSVA FOIA/Privacy Officer
Office of the Executive Secretary
Office of the Secretary, U.S. Dept. of Veterans Affairs (OSVA)
CWS 2nd Mon
These emails/attachments are For Official Use Only, not to be shared outside intended parties, and may not be disclosed pursuant to 5 U.S.C. § 552(b)(3) exempting the release of information that another statute prohibits; 41 U.S.C. § 4702(b) prohibiting the release of unincorporated proposals; 41 U.S.C. § 423(a) prohibiting the release of bid/proposal information or evaluations before award; 26 U.S.C. § 6103 prohibiting the release of tax identification numbers; 5 U.S.C. § 552(b)(4) exempting the release of confidential commercial information; 5 U.S.C. § 552(b)(5) under the deliberative process, attorney-client, and work product privileges; and 5 U.S.C. § 552(b)(6) protecting personally identifiable information. If you received these emails/attachments in error, you must inform the OSVA FOIA Officer and destroy them immediately. The VA reserves discovery rights including, but not limited to, objections, privileges, motions, etc.
Good afternoon Mr. Craven:
Your case is coming up in my queue for processing. This correspondence is to inquire if you are still interested in your June 27, 2018, request under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), 5 U.S.C. § 552, made to the Department of Veterans Affairs, Veterans Health Administration (VHA) Central Office FOIA Office (please see attached request).
Due to the passage of time, we are inquiring whether you are still-interested in having your request processed. In accordance with the Department of Justice, Office of
Information Policy found at: https://www.justice.gov/oip/blog/foia-post-2010-oip-guidanceimportance-good-communication-foia-requesters<https://gcc01.safelinks.protection.outlook.com/?url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.justice.gov%2Foip%2Fblog%2Ffoia-post-2010-oip-guidanceimportance-good-communication-foia-requesters&data=04%7C01%7C%7C578989f93b0843975b3a08d8a12a4617%7Ce95f1b23abaf45ee821db7ab251ab3bf%7C0%7C0%7C637436550214846212%7CUnknown%7CTWFpbGZsb3d8eyJWIjoiMC4wLjAwMDAiLCJQIjoiV2luMzIiLCJBTiI6Ik1haWwiLCJXVCI6Mn0%3D%7C1000&sdata=c4WcSGDKUITDCIxn0sKMtqZt3ScyppH6xAf0UPnf0b0%3D&reserved=0>, I am providing you with 30 calendar days
to respond if you are still interested in your FOIA request. If I have not heard from you by January 15, 2020, I will assume that you are no longer interested in pursuing your request
and will take the appropriate measures to administratively close your request.
If you have any further questions, please feel free to contact me at (561) 512-9077. Thank you,
Amarah K. Dawes, RHIA
VHA FOIA Officer, VHA FOIA Office (105HIG)
Information Access and Privacy Office | Office of Health Informatics
810 Vermont Avenue, N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20420
Tel. (561) 512-9077