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Appealing HHS decisions for information requests

AHCJ’s Right to Know Committee has brokered an appeals process with the leadership of the Department of Health and Human Services media office for reporters facing unreasonable delays or inadequate responses from agency public information officers.

The first step is to familiarize yourself with HHS’s media policies: “Guidelines on the Provision of Information to the News Media.”

Knowledge of the guidelines can give you a leg up in your dealings with HHS agencies, especially in cases in which you are experiencing unreasonable delays – a direct violation of HHS’s stated expectation that its employees “respond promptly to media requests and respect media deadlines.” We recommend saving your email thread, including repeat queries, and documenting delays or inadequate responses.

HHS has identified senior media officials to whom reporters should directly appeal. Here is a list of the contacts and the agencies they supervise (as of July 2015):

Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs for Public Health:
Bill Hall (202-690-6343;
Agencies: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Food and Drug Administration (FDA), National Institutes of Health (NIH), Office of Assistant Secretary of Health (OASH), Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR), Office of Global Affairs (OGA).
Issues: Tobacco, Obesity, Let’s Move, Alzheimer’s Disease, HIV/AIDS, Specialty/ Minority Outreach (incl. faith-based), Sustainability.

Deputy Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs for Human Services:
Mark Weber (202-260-6412;
Agencies: Administration for Community Living (ACL), including Administration on Aging and Office on Disability (AoA/OD), Office for Civil Rights (OCR), Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration (SAMHSA), Administration for Children and Families (ACF), Departmental Appeals Board (DAB), and the Indian Health Service (HIS).
Issues: Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), Head Start, child care, fatherhood, studio/publication planning and clearance.

Deputy Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs for Health Care:
Lauren Crawford (202-690-7048;
Agencies: Affordable Care Act (ACA), Office of Human Resources (OHR), Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Service (CMS), Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight (CCIIO), Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC), and the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA).
Issues: Oversight and Outreach

If there are issues you’d like to bring to the attention of AHCJ’s Right to Know Committee or would like to work on, please contact Irene M. Wielawski, RTK chair, at or Felice J. Freyer, RTK vice chair, at