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of the nine categories of exemptions steps necessary to obtain records from identified in $1.554 of this part.

those sources, rather than from VA. (b) Fees to be charged. (1) Except as (c) Restrictions on assessing fees. With provided in paragraphs (c), (d), (f) and the exception of commercial use re(g) of this section, the Department of quests no charges will be assessed for Veterans Affairs will charge fees that

the first 100 pages of duplication and recoup the full allowable direct costs the first two hours of search time. for responding to each request from the Moreover, no fees are to be charged any public. Such fees will be charged in ac requester, including commercial use cordance with the schedule of fees in

requesters, if the cost of collecting the paragraph (e) of this section, and other

fee is equal to or greater than the fee requirements or restrictions in this

itself. These provisions work together regulation. The most efficient and

so that, except for commercial use releast costly methods will be used to

quests, fees will not be assessed until comply with requests for documents

the free search and duplication have made under the FOIA.

been provided. For example, if a re(2) If it is estimated that charges for

quest takes two hours and ten minutes

of search time and results in 105 reproduplication determined by using the fee schedule in $1.555(e) of this part are

duced pages of documents, fees can be likely to exceed $25, the requester will

charged for only 10 minutes of search be notified of the estimated amount of

time and for only five pages of reprofees, unless the requester has indicated

duction. If this cost were equal to or in advance his or her willingness to pay

less than the cost to VA of billing the

requester and processing the fee colfees as high as those anticipated. Such notice will offer the requester the op

lected, no charges would be assessed.

(NOTE: The cost of collecting fees are portunity to confer with Department

VA's administrative costs of receiving personnel with the object of reformu

and recording a requester's remittance, lating the request to meet his or her

and processing the fee for deposit in needs at a lower cost.

the Treasury Department's special ac(3) Each administration and staff of

count. The cost is determined to be fice upon approval of the Secretary is

negligible. The per-transaction costs to authorized to contract with private

the Treasury to handle such remitsector services to locate, reproduce,

tances is negligible and will not be conand disseminate records in response to

sidered in the Department's determinaFOIA requests when that is the most

tion.) efficient and least costly method. If a

(1) For purposes of the restriction on contractor is used, the ultimate cost to

assessing fees, the word pages refers to the requester can be no greater than it

one-sided paper copies of the standard would if the administration, staff of

sizes 81/2" x 11" or 81/2" x 14" or 11" x 14". fice, or field facility performed the

Accordingly, requesters will not be entask, itself. In no case may an adminis

titled to 100 microfiche or 100 computer tration, staff office, or field facility

disks free. One microfiche containing contract out responsibilities which the

the equivalent of 100 pages or 100 pages FOIA provides that they alone may dis- of computer printout might meet t charge, such as determining the appli

terms of the restriction. cability of an exemption, or deter

(2) The term search time in this conmining whether to waive or reduce text is based on manual searches. To fees.

calculate the computer search time for (4) When documents that would be re the purpose of applying the two-hour sponsive to a request are maintained search restriction, the hourly cost of for distribution by agencies operating operating the computer's central procstatutory-based fee schedule programs, essing unit will be combined with the in which the agency is required to set operator's hourly salary, plus 16 perthe level of fees for particular types of cent of the salary. When the cost of the records, such as the National Technical search (including the operator time Information Service or the Govern- and the cost of the computer to process ment Printing Office, the requester of a request) equals the equivalent dollar such documents will be informed of the amount of two hours of the salary of the person performing the search, i.e., will be provided by the requester, and the operator, charges will begin to be the requester must reasonably describe assessed for a computer search.

the records sought. (d) Categories of requesters and fees to (3) Representatives of news media. be charged each category. There are four These requesters will be charged for categories of FOIA requesters: Com the cost of reproduction, only, excludmercial use requesters; educational and ing charges for the first 100 pages. To non-commercial scientific institutional be included in this category, a rerequesters; requesters who are rep quester must fall within the definition resentatives of news media; and all of a representative of the news media other requesters. Specific levels of fees specified in paragraph (a)(vi) of this will be charged for each of these cat section, and the request must not be egories as follows:

made for commercial use. A request for (1) Commercial use requesters. When a records supporting the news disseminarequest for documents for commercial tion function of the requester will not use is received, the full direct costs of be considered to be a request that is for searching for, reviewing for release, commercial use. Requesters must reaand duplicating the records sought will sonably describe the records sought. be charged to the requester. Commer- (4) All other requesters. Any requester cial use requesters are not entitled to that does not fit into any of the cattwo hours of free search time nor 100 egories in this section will be charged free pages of reproduced documents. fees which recover the full reasonable Moreover, the commercial use re direct cost of searching for and reproquester will be charged the cost of ducing records that are responsive to searching for and reviewing records the request, except that the first 100 even if there is ultimately no disclo- pages of reproduction and the first two sure of records. The requester must hours of search time will be furnished reasonably describe the records sought. without charge. In addition, under cer

(2) Educational and non-commercial sci- tain circumstances specified in paraentific institution requesters. These re- graph (f) of this section, fees will be questers will be charged only for the waived or reduced at the discretion of cost of reproduction, excluding charges field facility heads, their designee, or for the first 100 pages. In order to be responsible Central Office officials. Reconsidered a member of this category, quests from VA beneficiaries, applia requester must show that the request cants for VA benefits, or other individis being made as authorized by and uals for records retrievable by their under the auspices of a qualifying in name or other personal identifier will stitution and that the records are not initially be processed under 38 U.S.C. sought for a commercial use. If the re- 5701 and 5 U.S.C. 552a and will be asquest is from an educational institu- sessed fees in accordance with the aption, the requester must show that the plicable fee provisions of $1.526(i) or records sought are in furtherance of $1.577(f) of this part. To the extent that scholarly research. If the request is records are not disclosable under these from a non-commercial scientific insti- provisions, the disclosure of such tution, the requester has to show that records will be evaluated under $$1.550 the records are sought in furtherance through 1.559 of this part, and fees will of scientific research. Information nec- be assessed under paragraph (e) of this essary to support a claim of being cat- section. Requesters must reasonably egorized as an educational or non-com- describe the records sought. mercial scientific institution requester (e) Schedule of fees:

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(1) Duplication of documents by any type of reproduction process to produce plain one-sided $0.15 per page.

paper copies of a standard size (81/2" x 11"; 822" 14"; 11" x 14"). (2) Duplication of non-paper records, such as microforms, audiovisual materials (motion pic- | Actual direct cost to the Agency

tures, slides, laser optical disks, video tapes, audiotapes, etc.) computer tapes and disks, (See paragraph (a)(2) of this diskettes for personal computers, and any other automated media output.

section and, if costs are likely to exceed $25.00, paragraph (b)(2) of this section.

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(3) Duplication of documents by any type of reproduction process not covered by paragraphs Actual direct cost to the Agency

(e)(1) and (2) of this section to produce a copy in a form reasonably usable by the re (See paragraph (a)(2) of this quester.

section and, if costs are likely to exceed $25.00, paragraph

(b)(2) of this section. (4) Document search by manual (non-automated) methods ...

Basic hourly salary rate of the

employee(s) performing the search, plus 16 percent. (It costs are likely to exceed $25.00, see paragraph (9)(2)

of this section.) (NOTE–If a department, staff office or field station uses exclusively a single class of personnel, e.g., all administrative/clerical or

all professional/executive, an average rate for the range of grades involved may be used). (5) Document search using automated methods, such as by computer ...

Actual direct cost to perform

search. (See paragraph (c)(2) of this section, and, if costs are likely to exceed $25.00, see paragraph (9)(2) of this sec

tion.) (6) Document review (use only for commercial use requesters)

Basic hourly salary rate of em

ployee(s) performing initial review to determine whether to release document(s) or portions of records, plus 16 per

cent. (NOTE. Charge for document reviews covers only the time spent reviewing the document(s) at the initial administrative level to

determine applicability of a specific FOIA exemption to a particular record or portion of a record. It does not cover any incurred at the administrative appeal level once the initial exemptions are applied. However, records or portions of records withheld in full under an exemption which is subsequently determined not to apply may be reviewed again to determine the applicability of other exemptions not previously considered. The cost for such a subsequent review may be properly as

sessed). (7) Other charges: Certifying that records are true copies; Sending records by special meth- Where applicable, assess under ods such as express mail.

provisions of $$ 1.526(i) and (1) of this part, otherwise actual direct cost of service performed.

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(f) Waiving or reducing fees. (1) Fees disclosure is likely to contribute to an for records and services provided in re- understanding of government opersponse to a FOIA request will be ations or activities; waived or reduced when it is deter (iii) The contribution to an undermined by responsible Central Office of- standing of the subject by the public ficials or field station heads or their likely to result from disclosure: designee that furnishing the docu- Whether disclosure of the requested inment(s) is in the public interest be- formation will contribute to public uncause it is likely to contribute signifi derstanding; and cantly to public understanding of the (iv) The significance of the contribuoperations or activities of the govern tion to public understanding: Whether ment and is not primarily in the com the disclosure is likely to contribute mercial interest of the requester.

significantly to public understanding (2) The following factors will be con of government operations or activities. sidered in sequence in determining (3) The following factors will be conwhether disclosure of information is in sidered in sequence in determining the public interest because it is likely whether disclosure of information is to contribute significantly to the pub primarily in the commercial interest of lic understanding of the operations or the requester: activities of the government:

(i) The existence and magnitude of a (i) The subject of the request: Wheth- commercial interest: Whether the reer the subject of the requested records quester has a commercial interest that concerns the operations or activities of would be furthered by the requested the government;

disclosure; and, if so (ii) The informative value of the in- (ii) The primary interest in discloformation to be disclosed: Whether the sure: Whether the magnitude of the

identified commercial interest of the quest down into a series of requests for requester is sufficiently large, in com- the purpose of evading the assessment parison with the public interest in dis- of fees, the responsible Central Office closure, that disclosure is primarily in official, or field facility head or desthe commercial interest of the re ignee may aggregate (combine) any quester.

such requests and charge accordingly. (4) An appeal from an adverse fee One element to consider in deterwaiver or reduction determination will mining whether a belief would be reabe processed in the same manner as de sonable is the time period in which the scribed in $1.557 of this part.

requests occurred. For example, it is (g) Other administrative considerations reasonable to presume that multiple to improve assessment and collection of requests within a 30-day time period fees-(1) Charging interest-notice and that seek portion(s) of the same docurate. The Department of Veterans Af- ment(s) is an attempt to avoid payfairs may charge interest to those re- ment of charges. For requests made questers who fail to timely pay fees as- over a longer period, however, such sessed in accordance with these regula- presumption becomes harder to sus tions. Determination to charge interest tain. In each case, there must be a will be made by the responsible Central solid basis for determining that aggreOffice official or field facility head or gation is warranted. Caution will be exdesignee. Interest will be assessed on ercised before aggregating requests the unpaid bill beginning on the 31st from more than one requester. There day following the day on which the must be a concrete basis on which to original building was sent. Interest will conclude that the requesters are acting be at the rate prescribed in section 3717 in concert and are acting specifically of title 31 U.S.C., and will accrue from to avoid payment. In no case will multhe date of the billing. Accounting pro- tiple requests on unrelated subjects cedures ensure that a requester who from one requester be aggregated. has remitted the full amount within (4) Advance payments. The Departthe time period is properly credited ment of Veterans Affairs may not rewith the payment. The fact that the quire a requester to make an advance fee has been received by VA, even if not payment, i.e., payment before work is processed, will suffice to stay the ac commenced or continued on a request, crual of interest.

unless: (2) Charges for unsuccessful search. (i) The allowable charges that a reWhen it is determined by the respon quester may be required to pay are sible Central Office official or field fa- likely to exceed $250. Then, the Departcility head or designee, charges for ment of Veterans Affairs should either searching may be assessed, even if notify the requester of the likely cost records are not located to satisfy a re- and obtain satisfactory assurance of quest or if records located are deter- full payment, or require an advance mined to be exempt from disclosure. If payment of an amount up to the full it is determined that search charges estimated charges in the case of reare likely to exceed $25, the requester questers with no history of payment; will be notified of the estimated or amount of fees, unless the requester (ii) A requester has previously failed has indicated in advance a willingness to pay a fee charged in a timely fashion to pay fees as high as those antici- (i.e., within 30 days of the date of the pated. Such notice will offer the re- billing). Then, the Department of Vetquester the opportunity to confer with erans Affairs may require the requester agency personnel with the object of re- to pay the full amount owed, plus any formulating the request to meet his or applicable interest as provided in paraher needs at a lower cost.

graph (g)(1) of this section, or to dem(3) Aggregating requests. When the re- onstrate that he or she has, in fact, sponsible Central Office official or field paid the fee, and to make an advance facility head or designee reasonably be- payment of the estimated fee before lieves that a requester or, on rare occa- the Department begins to process a sions, a group of requesters acting in new request or a pending request from concert, is attempting to break a re- that requester.

(iii) If a requester is required to make advance payments, as described in this section, the time limits prescribed in $1.553a of this part, for responding to initial requests and appeals from initial denials, will begin only after the Department has received the advance fee payments.

(5) Debt collection. In the event of non-payment of billed charges for disclosure of records, the procedures authorized by the Debt Collection Act of 1982 (Pub. L. 97–365) may be used. This may include disclosure to consumer reporting agencies and use of collection agencies.

staff office head. All denials or proposed denials at the Central Office level will be coordinated with the Director, Information Service as well as the General Counsel. [40 FR 12658, Mar. 20, 1975) $ 1.557 Administrative review.

(a) Upon denial of a request, the responsible Department of Veterans Affairs official or designated employee will inform the requester in writing of the denial, cite the specific exemption in $1.554 upon which the denial is based, set forth the names and titles or positions of each person responsible for the denial of such request, and advise that the denial may be appealed to the General Counsel.

(b) The final agency decision in such appeals will be made by the General Counsel or the Deputy General Counsel. [40 FR 12658, Mar. 20, 1975, as amended at 55 FR 21546, May 25, 1990]

(Authority: 5 U.S.C. 552(a)(4)(A)) (53 FR 10377, Mar. 31, 1988)

$$1.558_1.559 (Reserved)

SAFEGUARDING PERSONAL INFORMATION

IN DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS AFFAIRS RECORDS

8 1.556 Requests for other reasonably

described records. Each administration, staff office, and field facility head will designate an employee(s) who will be responsible for initial action on (granting or denying) requests to inspect or obtain information from or copies of records under their jurisdiction and within the purview of $1.553. This responsibility includes maintaining a uniform listing of such requests. Data logged will consist of: Name and address of requester; date of receipt of request; brief description of request; action taken on request, granted or denied; citation of the specific section when request is denied; and date of reply to the requester. In the field a denial of any such request may be made only by the Director or the designated employee and in Central Office only by the administration or staff office head or designee. The letter notifying the requester of the denial will be signed by the official making the denial decision. Any legal question arising in a field station concerning the release of information will be referred to the appropriate Regional Counsel for disposition as con templated by $13.401* of this chapter. In Central Office such legal questions will be referred to the General Counsel. Any administrative question will be referred through administrative channels to the appropriate administration or

NOTE: Sections 1.575 through 1.584 concern the safeguarding of individual privacy from the misuse of information from files, records, reports, and other papers and documents in Department of Veterans Affairs custody. As to the release of information from Department of Veterans Affairs claimant records see $1.500 series. As to the release of information from Department of Veterans Affairs records other than claimant records see $ 1.550 series. Section 1.575 series implement the provisions of Pub. L. 93-579, December 31, 1974, adding a section 552a to title 5 U.S.C. providing that individuals be granted access to records concerning them which are maintained by Federal agencies, and for other purposes.

SOURCE: 40 FR 33944, Aug. 12, 1975, unless otherwise noted.

$ 1.575 Social security numbers in vet

erans' benefits matters. (a) Except as provided in paragraph (b) of this section, no one will be denied any right, benefit, or privilege provided by law because of refusal to disclose to the Department of Veterans Affairs a social security number.

*EDITORIAL NOTE: At 42 FR 41410, Aug. 17, 1977, $13.401 was removed.

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