HHS AHRQ Freedom of Information Annual Report - FY 2009

Freedom of Information Act Annual Report for Fiscal Year 2009.
I. Agency: Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ)

Report Prepared By: Nancy Comfort

Title: Freedom of Information Officer

Address: 540 Gaither Road, Rockville, MD 20850

Phone Number: (301) 427-1866

Electronic Address for Report on the World Wide Web: http://www.ahrq.gov/foia/foiaindx.html#Reports

Address for Paper Copies of Report: 
AHRQ Information Resources Center 
540 Gaither Road, Suite 1000
Rockville, MD 20850 

II. How To Make a FOIA Request 

Please go to HHS Guide to Information Resources at: http://www.hhs.gov/about/infoguid.html#foia. 

Brief description of why some requests are not granted.  Documents requested were protected by an exemption 
and release would have caused harm to the interest protected by the exemption.  

III. Acronyms, Definitions, and Exemptions

A.  Agency-specific acronyms or other terms:

HHS—U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
OPDIVs—Operating Divisions of HHS                          
OS—Office of the Secretary, HHS        
OASPA—Office of the Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs, HHS
AoA—Administration on Aging
ACF—Administration for Children and Families
AHRQ—Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality
ATSDR—Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry 
CDC—Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
FDA—Food and Drug Administration
HRSA—Health Resources and Services Administration 
IHS—Indian Health Service
NIH—National Institutes of Health
OIG—Office of the Inspector General
OPHS—Office of Public Health and Science 
PHS—Public Health Service
PRO—Professional Review Organization
PSC—Program Support Center
SAMHSA—Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration

B.  Basic terms (from FOIA UPDATE, Summer 1997): 

a. Administrative Appeal—a request to a federal agency asking that it review at a higher administrative level a FOIA 
determination made by the agency at the initial request level. 

b. Average Number—the number obtained by dividing the sum of a group of numbers by the quantity of numbers 
in the group.  For example, of 3, 7, and 14, the average number is 8. 

c. Backlog—the number of requests or administrative appeals that are pending at an agency at the end of the 
fiscal year that are beyond the statutory time period for a response.

d. Component—for agencies that process requests on a decentralized basis, a "component" is an entity, also 
sometimes referred to as an Office, Division, Bureau, Center, or Directorate, within the agency that processes FOIA requests. 
The FOIA now requires that agencies include in their annual report data for both the agency overall and for each principal 
component of the agency.

e. Consultation—the procedure whereby the agency responding to a FOIA request first forwards a record to another agency 
for its review because that agency has an interest in the document.  Once the agency in receipt of the consultation finishes 
its review of the record, it responds back to the agency that forwarded it.  That agency, in turn, will then respond 
to the FOIA requester.

f. Exemption 3 Statute—a federal statute that exempts information from disclosure and which the agency relies 
on to withhold information under subsection (b)(3) of the FOIA.   

g. FOIA Request—a FOIA request is generally a request to a federal agency for access to records concerning 
another person (i.e., a "third-party" request), or concerning an organization, or a particular topic of interest.  FOIA requests also 
include requests made by requesters seeking records concerning themselves (i.e., "first-party" requests) when those requesters 
are not subject to the Privacy Act, such as non-U.S. citizens.  Moreover, because all first-party requesters should be afforded the 
benefit of both the access provisions of the FOIA as well as those of the Privacy Act, FOIA requests also include any first-party 
requests where an agency determines that it must search beyond its Privacy Act "systems of records" or where a Privacy Act 
exemption applies, and the agency looks to FOIA to afford the greatest possible access.  All requests which require the agency 
to utilize the FOIA in responding to the requester are included in this report.  Additionally, a FOIA request includes records 
referred to the agency for processing and direct response to the requester.  It does not, however, include records for 
which the agency has received a consultation from another agency.  (Consultations are reported separately in Section XII of 
this report.)

h. Full Grant—an agency decision to disclose all records in full in response to a FOIA request.

i. Full Denial—an agency decision not to release any records in response to a FOIA request because the records 
are exempt in their entireties under one or more of the FOIA exemptions, or because of a procedural reason, such as when no 
records could be located.

j. Median Number—the middle, not average, number.  For example, of 3, 7, and 14, the median number is 7.

k. Multi-Track Processing—a  system in which simple requests requiring relatively minimal review are placed in one processing 
track and more voluminous and complex requests are placed in one or more other tracks.  Requests granted expedited processing 
are placed in yet another track. Requests in each track are processed on a first in/first out basis.
i. Expedited Processing—an agency will process a FOIA request on an expedited basis when a requester 
satisfies the requirements for expedited processing as set forth in the statute and in agency regulations.  
ii. Simple Request—a FOIA request that an agency using multi-track processing places in its fastest (non-expedited) 
track based on the low volume and/or simplicity of the records requested.  
iii. Complex Request—a FOIA request that an agency using multi-track processing places in a slower track 
based on the high volume and/or complexity of the records requested.
l. Partial Grant/Partial Denial—in response to a FOIA request, an agency decision to disclose portions of the records and to withhold 
other portions that are exempt under the FOIA, or to otherwise deny a portion of the request for a procedural reason.  

m. Pending Request or Pending Administrative Appeal—a request or administrative appeal for which an agency has not taken 
final action in all respects.  

n. Perfected Request—a request for records which reasonably describes such records and is made in accordance with published rules 
stating the time, place, fees (if any) and procedures to be followed.
o. Processed Request or Processed Administrative Appeal—a request or administrative appeal for which an agency has taken final 
action in all respects. 

p. Range in Number of Days—the lowest and highest number of days to process requests or administrative appeals.  

q. Time Limits—the time period in the statute for an agency to respond to a FOIA request (ordinarily 20 working days from receipt 
of a perfected FOIA request). 

C. FOIA exemptions: 

a.  Exemption 1: classified national defense and foreign relations information 
b.  Exemption 2: internal agency rules and practices 
c.  Exemption 3: information that is prohibited from disclosure by another federal law 
d.  Exemption 4: trade secrets and other confidential business information
e.  Exemption 5: inter-agency or intra-agency communications that are protected by legal privileges 
f.  Exemption 6: information involving matters of personal privacy 
g.  Exemption 7: records or information compiled for law enforcement purposes, to the extent that the production of 
those records (A) could reasonably be expected to interfere with enforcement proceedings, (B) would deprive a person 
of a right to a fair trial or an impartial adjudication, (C) could reasonably be expected to constitute an unwarranted 
invasion of personal privacy, (D) could reasonably be expected to disclose the identity of a confidential source, 
(E) would disclose techniques and procedures for law enforcement investigations or prosecutions, or would disclose 
guidelines for law enforcement investigations or prosecutions, or (F) could reasonably be expected to endanger the 
life or physical safety of any individual 
h. Exemption 8: information relating to the supervision of financial institutions 
i. Exemption 9: geological information on wells 
IV. Exemption 3 Statutes  

V. FOIA Requests 

A.  Number of initial requests (line 1 + line 2 - line 3 = line 4):

1.  Number of requests pending as of start of fiscal year:             5
2.  Number of requests received in fiscal year:             72
3.  Number of requests processed in fiscal year:            68
4.  Number of requests pending as of end of fiscal year:              9  

B. (1) Disposition of FOIA Requests:  

1.  Number of full grants:                   22
2.  Number of partial grants:                   20
3.  Number of full denials based on exemptions:           1
4.  Number of full denials based on reasons other than exemptions:
(Total):                              25     
a.  No records:                          9
b.  Referrals:                           7
c.  Request withdrawn:                           4
d.  Fee-related reason:                          0
e.  Records not reasonably described:                    1
f.  Improper FOIA request for some other reason:                 1
g.  Not an agency record:                        3
h.  Duplicate request:                           0
i.  Other (specify):                             0
B. (2) Disposition of FOIA requests—Other: 

B. (3) Disposition of FOIA requests—Number of times exemptions applied:
Exemption 1:                            0
Exemption 2:                             0
Exemption 3:                             1
Exemption 4:                           14
Exemption 5:                             5
Exemption 6:                           13
Exemption 7:                             0
Exemption 7(A):                          0
Exemption 7(B):                          0
Exemption 7(C):                          0
Exemption 7(D):                          0
Exemption 7(E):                          0
Exemption 7(F):                          0
Exemption 8:                             0
Exemption 9:                             0

VI. Administrative Appeals of Initial Determinations of FOIA Requests

A.  Received, processed, and pending administrative appeals:

1. Number of appeals pending as of start of Fiscal Year:         0
2. Number of appeals received in Fiscal Year:               1
3. Number of appeals processed in Fiscal Year:          0 
4. Number of appeals pending as of end of Fiscal Year:          1

B.  Disposition of administrative appeals—All processed appeals: 

1. Number affirmed on appeal:                    0
2. Number partially affirmed and partially reversed/remanded on appeal:     0
3. Number completely reversed/remanded on appeal:           0
4. Number of appeals closed for other reasons:          0

C. (1) Reasons for denial on appeal—Number of times exemptions applied:
Exemption 1:                            0
Exemption 2:                             0
Exemption 3:                             0
Exemption 4:                             0
Exemption 5:                             0
Exemption 6:                             0
Exemption 7:                             0
Exemption 7(A):                          0
Exemption 7(B):                          0
Exemption 7(C):                          0
Exemption 7(D):                          0
Exemption 7(E):                          0
Exemption 7(F):                          0
Exemption 8:                             0
Exemption 9:                             0
C. (2) Reasons for denial on Appeal—Reasons other than exemptions:
a. No records    
b. Referrals    
c. Request withdrawn    
d. Fee-related reason    
e. Records not reasonably described    
f. Improper request for other reason    
g. Not an agency record    
h. Duplicate request     
i. Request in litigation 
j. Appeal based solely on denial of request for expedited processing

C. (3) Reasons for denial on Appeal—Other:
Administrative closures, records previously released to appellant
C. (4) Response time for administrative appeals:
a.  Median number of days:                                 N/A
b.  Average number of days:                                 N/A
c.  Lowest number of days:                              N/A
d. Highest number of days:                              N/A

C. (5) Ten oldest pending appeals:                        N/A

VII. FOIA Requests: Response time for Processed and Pending Requests

A. Processed requests—Response time for all processed perfected requests:            
B. Processed requests—Response time for perfected requests in which information was granted:    
C. Processed requests—Response time in day increments:              N/A              
D. Pending requests—All pending perfected requests:                   9
E. Pending requests—Ten oldest pending perfected requests:                0
VIII. Requests for Expedited Processing and Requests for Fee Waiver 

A. Requests for Expedited Processing:                          1
B. Requests for Fee Waiver:                           3
IX. FOIA Personnel and Costs 

A. Personnel:                                 1
B. Costs:                                   $52,157.00

X. Fees Collected for Processing Requests
XI. FOIA Regulations 

Please go to: http://www.hhs.gov/foia/45cfr5.html. 
XII. Backlogs, Consultations, and Comparisons

A. Backlogs of FOIA requests and administrative appeals:  
B. Consultations on FOIA requests—Received, processed, and pending consultations:  
C. Consultations on FOIA requests—Ten oldest consultations received from other agencies and pending at 
your agency:   
D. Comparison of numbers of requests from previous and current Annual Report—Requests received, processed, 
and backlogged:  
E. Comparison of numbers of administrative appeals from previous and current Annual Report—Appeals received, 
processed, and backlogged:
Page last reviewed October 2014
Internet Citation: HHS AHRQ Freedom of Information Annual Report - FY 2009. October 2014. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD. http://www.ahrq.gov/policy/foia/foiafy09.html