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Whitson Quoted on Pittsburgh-Area Veterans Dispute

On July 14, 2005 by Schnader in Litigation

Keith Whitson was quoted in a July 14, 2005 article in The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review that reported on a lawsuit filed against the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) last Wednesday by the Coalition of Veterans Advocates, a Pittsburgh-area veterans organization that advocates for better services in the VA Pittsburgh healthcare system. The group, which is being represented on a pro bono basis by the Firm, is suing because of the VA’s request for $17,000 in exchange for the data that influenced the agency’s decision last year to close the largest of the local system’s three hospitals. The coalition is asking a federal judge to order the agency to release the data behind the closure decision without charging the fee and to cover the coalition’s legal fees.

Keith said in the article that the group asked the VA to waive copying and other fees but that the agency has insisted on charging the group $17,000 because it is not a news operation or academic institution. In the article, Keith said that federal open records law does not limit fee waivers to those two categories. Rather, he said, the law extends them to anyone seeking records in the public interest rather than for commercial interest. “I think we meet this standard,” he said.

The filing of the suit was also covered by several Pittsburgh-area television news programs and on the local National Public Radio affiliate.