TN 3 (11-98)

GN 03301.035 Comparison of the FOIA and PA


While overlapping in some instances, the FOIA and PA are not contradictory but complement each other. In accordance with SSA policy, SSA generally applies whichever law grants the requester greater access, regardless of which law is cited, or even if no law is cited by the requester. Regulation No. 1 implements both the FOIA and PA to give the public the broadest possible access to information.

The following chart compares specific parts of each law.

Purpose To open records of agencies to the public To grant individuals some control over what records are collected and how they are used.
Scope All records maintained by SSA, personal and non-personal Personal information maintained by SSA in a system of records and retrieved by a personal identifier
Who Can Make a Request The public (includes individuals and organizations, domestic or foreign; does not include Federal agencies and Federal and State courts) Any individual has access to his/her own records. Disclosure to government agencies or private organizations is at SSA's discretion.

Provisions for Disclosure

Agency may refuse to disclose if any one of 9 exemptions applies. However, withholding is not required even if an exemption applies.

Disclosure to:

  • Subject individual is mandatory unless information is in a PA exempt system of records.

  • Parents of a minor child or legal guardian of an incompetent individual is also mandatory. There are some exceptions, such as cases in which the parent or legal guardian is not acting on the individual's behalf.

  • Third parties is permitted only if one of 12 exceptions to the PA applies (or with the consent of the subject individual).

Written or Oral Request Either. However, the requester does not have the right to appeal a denial of information unless the request is in writing or telephoned directly to the FOI Officer. Either. However, generally the request should be in writing to identify the requester and document the purpose for the information. Requests from law enforcement agencies must be in writing.
Time Limit for Responding to Requests 20 working days to respond to an initial request, regardless of whether disclosure will be made. (10 additional working days under certain circumstances.) No time limit for requests for access. There is, however, a limit of 10 working days for responding to requests for amendment or correction of an individual's record.
Maintaining a Record to Account for a Disclosure Required for annual report to Congress. There is also a records retention schedule for FO requests. Required unless the disclosure is within the agency, under the FOIA or with consent of the individual.
Fees Refer to fee schedule in 20 CFR Part 402 Refer to fee schedules 20 CFR Part 401

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GN 03301.035 - Comparison of the FOIA and PA - 12/09/1998
Batch run: 12/09/1998