Thursday, May 8, 2014

Submitting a FOIA request to the VA

Last week I wrote about a new lead on the search for the parents of my second-great-grandmother, Mary Alice Cain Read. It appears Mary Alice had a brother named Harl Cain. He joined the US Army in 1901, and was sent off to California as part of the First Battery, US Field Artillery. Harl filed a pension for his service in the Army, and his name appears in the pension index cards.
Using this information, I went to the National Archives to see if a copy of the pension application was on file. Unfortunately, the pension file is still with the Veterans Administration, but the helpful staff at the Archives provided me with information on how to request a copy.

In order to request a copy of the file, I had to submit a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to the Veterans Administration. One can do this electronically by going to  For fee purposes, FOIA requests are divided into three categories: 1) commercial requesters, 2) educational, non-scientific institutions and representatives of the media, and 3) everyone else. If you're in the 3rd category, it appears that you are only charged for photocopies after the first 100 pages (at 15 cents per page) and after time spent searching for records in excess of two hours. Fee waivers can also be granted if the requester describes why the disclosure of the information is in the public interest and not in the primary commercial interest of the requester.

I sent a signed copy of my information as an attachment to the email address for the appropriate VBA FOIA contact, and received a response later in the day. I don't know how long it will take to process the request, but I now have a case number. Hopefully the file will have information on others in the Cain family.


  1. Patrick,

    I want you to know that your blog post is listed in today's Fab Finds post at

    Have a great weekend!

  2. Thanks Jana, much appreciated! I'll have another post after I hear back again from the VA, hopefully with some great information. Have a wonderful Mothers Day Weekend.


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