Here are two Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) letters.
The first one I borrowed from a law firm for disabled veterans requesting copies of their disability claim folder (which will contain your Service Medical Records (SMR’s)). The second is for disabled veterans requesting a copy of their Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment (VR&E) claim folder. These are two separate folders!
The request for the regular SMR will need to go through the regular channels of the VA. The quickest way to the Voc Rehab folder is to hand carry the request into the Voc Rehab office. Mix and match whatever language suits you best. If the first one seems too “teethy”, then alter the second to request your SMR’s.
If you check the bottom of this post, I provide a free eBook download of updated and more detailed FOIA and Privacy Act requests just like the ones I use to get my files.
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First FOIA Example
July 18, 2008
Privacy Act Department
Department of Veterans Affairs Regional Office
575 N. Pennsylvania St.
Indianapolis, IN 46204
Re: Mr. Smith’s Claims Folder FOIA Request
I hereby request a copy of all documents contained in Mr. Smith claims folder, including, but not limited to, all documents in the right flap, left flap, and center flap, and the reverse side of any documents with writing on both sides.
Please note that this request for documents is being made pursuant to the Privacy Act, 5 U.S.C. § 552, and the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), 5 U.S.C. § 552a, as well as 38 C.F.R.§1.550 and 38 C.F.R. § 1.577. Your agency has a duty to respond to this request within TWENTY (20) DAYS of the date of this request pursuant to 5 U.S.C. § 552 (a)(6)(A)(2)(i).
Additionally, although an extension of time to respond may be requested, it may only be granted for “unusual circumstances.” “Predictable agency workload” is not typically considered an unusual circumstance as stated in 5 U.S.C. § 552(a)(6)(C)(ii). Moreover, even to the extent that unusual circumstances could be demonstrated in this instance, the time limit for the extension is limited to “10 working days” pursuant to 38 C.F.R.§ 1.553(d).
Please also be aware that your agency’s failure to respond to this request within twenty (20) days may result in the filing of an administrative appeal with the office of the Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs pursuant to 38 C.F.R.§ 1.557 and 5 U.S.C. §552(a)(6)(A)(2)(ii), and potentially, the filing of a federal lawsuit to compel the production of the information.
This may subject your agency to contempt of court and a fine, including attorney fees and litigation expenses in compelling the production of this information pursuant to 38 U.S.C. § 552a(g)(l) of the Privacy Act, and 38 U.S.C. § 552(a)(4)(B) of FOIA. Thank you.
Very truly yours,
BIG NAME LAW FIRM (OR YOU)
Second FOIA Example
Department of Veterans Affairs
(Address of Vocational Rehabilitation Office)
Re: Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request
Dear (Insert Counselor Name):
I am writing to request a copy of my Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment file through FOIA. Please furnish a copy of my file to the above mailing address.
My file can be found under: (Claim Number)
I further request a full waiver of fees associated with this request. The information I am requesting is material to my claim for benefits from the VA.
If you deny this request, please cite the reason you feel justified for the denial, and provide me with information I will need to make an appeal.
Please contact me with any questions about this appeal via phone or email at (insert phone number and email address).