Transmitted: January 24, 2022
To: Office of General Counsel, Department of Veterans Affairs
Full Request: Department of Veterans Affairs FOIA (PDF)
RE: Freedom of Information Act Appeal: FOIA Request Number 21-08490-F
Empower Oversight filed an appeal with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) challenging the decision by the Office of the Executive Secretary (OSVA) to redact key parts of documents it was required to produce in response to a FOIA request filed last year. The improperly redacted portions of the documents include the entire text of answers drafted in response to Senator Charles Grassley’s (R-IA) questions about the improper gifts and apparent conflicts of interest among senior VA officials. The VA drafted its reply to the Senator last May but has sat on the answers, failing to transmit them to the Senator and deleting the entire text of the answers from documents produced under FOIA.
On August 6, 2021, Empower Oversight filed a FOIA request with the VA regarding Charmain Bogue, who allegedly failed to recuse herself from Veterans Benefit Administration (VBA) decisions and advocated for entities paying her husband, Barrett Bogue. Veterans Education Success (VES), an advocacy organization that paid Mr. Bogue, advocated for an enforcement action that was announced by the VA in early 2021. Ms. Bogue has reportedly left the VA in the midst of the inspector general and congressional inquiries.
In deleting the answers drafted for Senator Grassley from the documents produced to Empower Oversight under FOIA, OSVA improperly cited “deliberative process” as its justification. However, as Empower Oversight argues on pages 8 and 9 of its appeal, that excuse does not cover the factual information in the answers it drafted but failed to send to Senator Grassley. The public has significant interest in why the VA chose to ignore Senator Grassley’s questions and in the underlying answers to those questions. That’s why Empower Oversight is appealing the decision, requesting that the VA conduct a thorough review into the OSVA’s exemption claims.
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