Transmitted: February 3, 2022
To: Office of Inspector General, Department of Veterans Affairs
Re: Request for Processing Notes Relating to FOIA Request Number 21-00357-FOIA
Full Request (PDF): Veterans Administration FOIA (PDF)
Empower Oversight filed a new request with the Veterans Administration Office of Inspector General (VA-OIG) seeking all communications related to its search for documents in response to Empower Oversight’s August 6, 2021, FOIA request.
The original request sought documents from both the Veterans Administration and the VA-OIG. According to whistleblower reports received by Empower Oversight, as well as witness statements and documents provided to Congress, an official at the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA), Charmain Bogue, allegedly failed to recuse herself from VBA decisions advocated by entities paying her husband, Barrett Bogue. Empower Oversight published a detailed research report in September 2021 outlining a related controversy: “Did the Department of Veterans Affairs Enable Insider Trading?”
On December 16, 2021, Empower Oversight appealed the VA-OIG’s initial determination because, despite the broad nature of the requests, the VA-OIG provided only a very limited subset (16 pages) of heavily-redacted records from a narrow three-day period rather than all of the records that are likely to exist. If the VA-OIG only has 16 pages of records from that three-day period, it would mean that the OIG intentionally delayed its response to the Ranking Member of the Senate Judiciary Committee for more than 50 days without once discussing, editing, or reviewing the letter. That seems highly unlikely.
Under this new request, Empower Oversight is seeking all communications among the VA-OIG staff pertaining to the initial request and its replies. These records should help determine whether VA-OIG conducted a search reasonably calculated to locate all responsive records, as required by law.
If you have first-hand information you’d like to disclose to assist Empower Oversight with these inquiries, please contact us confidentially here.