This recent call came as a surprise. The Observer had requested records on the use of painkillers by Department of Veterans Affairs patients. The VA was now ready to begin gathering that information, though this would take some time. But the request was made nearly two years ago and the newspaper project on painkillers was completed long ago.
While this request was complex and would have taken time to redact private information, there's a pattern. Previous requests for such simple details as the date on which a known event had taken place were never answered either.