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Indian Health Service The Federal Health Program for American Indians and Alaska Natives

Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA)

How To Make A FOIA Request

In accordance with the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and the Health and Human Services Freedom of Information Regulations (45 CFR Part 5), the Indian Health Service (IHS) policy is to answer all requests as accurately and completely as possible from existing records. In order to accomplish this most efficiently, we require all requests to be submitted in writing, by postal service, facsimile, or messenger; requests must contain the requestor's postal address and the name of the person responsible for paying any fees that may be charged. A phone number where we can reach the requester to get clarification of the request or resolve other issues concerning the request is strongly recommended. Providing the request in writing assures that all the rights provided by the FOIA and these regulations are protected (for example, the right to administratively appeal any denials we may make and the right to have our decisions reviewed in Federal court).

Your letter should include all the details possible in order to help us identify and locate the records you want. In addition to having the potential to be very costly in terms of fees, "all the records you have on..." types of requests tend to require a great deal of search time, even if few or no records are found on the subject you are interested in.

Please include the phrase "FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT" on the front of the envelope and your letter to ensure prompt receipt of your request by the appropriate FOIA Coordinator. The IHS FOIA Officer is the only official authorized to release or withhold information from Agency documents and records. This authority is specified in the Federal Register, Volume 53, No. 227, dated November 28, 1988, Subpart C, Section 5.31.

In order to make a FOIA request, simply state in your letter that “under the FOIA, I would like to request…” and send it to the appropriate Area Office or the Headquarters East.

If you would rather send your request electronically, please use the links below to view a sample request in the event that you would prefer to mail your request. However, if you want to have your request sent directly to our general mailbox, click the link below that reads “Submit a FOIA Request”. The FOIA Staff will determine where the request should be sent after we receive it based on the information that you are requesting.*

*Please note that if you are interested in receiving information that can be found in your medical records, it is NOT a FOIA request, it is a Privacy Act request and you are entitled to a copy of your own medical records. All you need to do is go the hospital or service unit where you were seen and fill out Form IHS-810 Exit Disclaimer: You Are Leaving www.ihs.gov [PDF - 305KB], Authorization For Use or Disclosure of Protected Health Information, and you will be able to receive your information. If you cannot print the above form, the medical records office in any of our facilities will have a copy of that form for you to complete.

However, if you are requesting information for a deceased patient, or if you are acting as a third party representative for a person who is requesting the records, then it becomes a FOIA request and the only way that information can be released is with signed authorization/notarized consent that you are 1) the executor of the deceased’s estate; and/or 2) documentation that would prove that you are next of kin or representing the next of kin.

HIPAA Privacy Rule when requesting personal health information from any Federal Agency. [PDF-619KB]

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