WASHINGTON — Empower Oversight filed its opposition to the Veterans Administration’s (VA) motion for summary judgment in its Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the agency. The VA is refusing to turn over factual information gathered in response to Senator Chuck Grassley’s (R-Iowa) oversight of conflicts of interest and leaks of market sensitive information prior the announcement of an enforcement decision involving publicly traded companies.
In its filing, Empower Oversight argues that the VA failed to respond timely, did not conduct an adequate search for records, and is improperly withholding factual information, which is not exempt from its disclosure obligations under FOIA. Exhibits filed with the court can be found here.
Over the last 15 months, the agency has ignored legal deadlines required by FOIA, even failing to respond to an administrative appeal within the timeframe required by the statute. The agency also initially failed to search an internal correspondence tracking database, which is commonly known as the VA Integrated Enterprise Workflow Solution (VIEWS), for relevant information. It still has failed to produce all responsive, non-exempt records within VIEWS.
Empower Oversight sued the VA after it failed to comply with a FOIA request for documents related to financial conflicts of interest involving the former Executive Director of the Education Service of the VA’s Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA), Charmain Bogue.
In April 2021, and again in July 2021, Senator Grassley contacted the VA asking about Ms. Bogue’s role in an enforcement action pushed for by the Veterans Education Success, which is a private enterprise that paid Ms. Bogue’s husband at the same time. In September of 2021, Empower Oversight published a comprehensive research paper on the controversy over conflicts and leaks of market moving information at the VA. In March 2022, the VA Inspector General report validated many of the concerns raised by Senator Grassley’s letters and Empower Oversight’s report. The nonpartisan agency watchdog found that Ms. Bogue had failed to recuse herself regarding VBA decisions that involved entities paying her husband, Barrett Bogue.
If you have first-hand information you’d like to disclose to assist Empower Oversight with these inquiries, please contact us confidentially here.