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Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)

What is the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)?

FOIA is a Federal law that gives “any person,” including U.S. citizens, foreign nationals, organizations, associations, and universities the right to obtain information from a federal government agency (codified at 5 U.S.C. Section 552).  The FOIA applies to Executive Branch departments, agencies, and offices; federal regulatory agencies; and federal corporations. The FOIA does not apply to Congress, the federal courts, and parts of the Executive Office of the President that function solely to advise and assist the President. Under the FOIA, you can obtain all “agency records”—such as print documents, photographs, videos, maps, e-mail, and electronic records—that were created or obtained by a federal agency and are, at the time you file a request, in that agency’s possession and control.  When understanding the FOIA today, you should look beyond the statute to the agency regulations, the judicial opinions, and the government FOIA policies. Each branch of government plays a role in developing FOIA law.

The CMS FOIA Office provides the following agency requirements:

  • Provides individuals with the right to access personal records that are collected, maintained, disseminate, and/or shared by the federal government
  • Allows the government to withhold information provided that the information falls under one or more of the nine exceptions included in the Act
  • Requires government agencies to respond to information requests within 20 days
  • Requires government agencies to list their major information systems, record locator systems, and reference guides via electronic means in an effort to make records available in formats desired by requesters

For more information on FOIA, such as placing a FOIA request, please visit the CMS FOIA Service Center.

Other Helpful links:

www.FOIA.gov

www.hhs.gov/foia/

www.hhs.gov/foia/45cfr5.html

www.hhs.gov/foia/reports/index.html

www.justice.gov/oip/foia-resources.html