(a)Acknowledgement of requests. When a request for records is received by a component designated to receive requests, the component's FOIA Officer will assign a request number for future reference and send the requester a written acknowledgement of receipt.
(b)Processing of requests. Upon receipt of a perfected request by the appropriate component, the FOIA Officer will make a reasonable effort to search for records responsive to the request. The FOIA Officer ordinarily will include as responsive those records in its possession and control as of the date the search for responsive records began. This includes searching for records in electronic form or format, unless to do so would interfere significantly with the agency's automated information systems. If fees for processing the request are due under § 1.561, the FOIA Officer shall inform the requester of the amount of the fee as provided in § 1.554(e) and § 1.561. When a request is granted in part, the FOIA Officer shall mark, redact, or annotate the records to be released to show the amount of information deleted and, where technically feasible, indicate the exemption at the place of redaction unless doing so would harm an interest protected by an applicable exemption. The FOIA Officer will provide the records in the form or format sought by the requester, if readily reproducible in that form or format.
(c)Time limits for processing requests. Ordinarily, a component will have twenty (20) business days from the date of VA's receipt of the request to make a determination whether to grant the request in its entirety, grant the request in part, or deny the request in its entirety. If the request must be referred to another component, the response time will begin on the date that the request was received by the appropriate component, but in any event not later than ten (10) business days after the referring office receives the FOIA request.
(d)Adverse determinations of requests. Whenever a component makes an adverse determination denying the request in any respect, the component FOIA Officer shall promptly notify the requester of the adverse determination in writing. Adverse determinations include the following: A determination to withhold a requested record in whole or in part; a determination that the requested record does not exist or cannot be located; a determination that a record is not readily reproducible in the form or format sought by the requester; a determination that what has been sought is not a record subject to the FOIA; a determination on any disputed fee matter, including the denial of a fee waiver; and a denial of a request for expedited treatment. The adverse determination notice must be signed by the component head or the component's FOIA Officer, and will include the following:
(1) The name and title or position of the person responsible for the adverse determination;
(2) A brief statement of the reason(s) for the denial, including any FOIA exemptions applied by the FOIA Officer in denying the request;
(3) The amount of information withheld in number of pages or other reasonable form of estimation; an estimate is not necessary if the volume is indicated on redacted pages disclosed in part or if providing an estimate would harm an interest provided by an applicable exemption; and
(4) Notice that the requester may appeal the adverse determination and a description of the requirements for an appeal under § 1.559 of this part.