A damning report published by the Inspector General for Veterans Affairs this week reveals that a number of veterans’ claims-related documents at the Los Angeles VA Regional Office (VARO) were placed in employee shred boxes without being processed.
All but one of the documents labeled for shredding had the potential to affect veterans’ benefits.
The information was discovered through an “anonymous” tip provided to the Office of Inspector General (OIG) which is headed by Deputy Inspector General Linda Halliday. It has resulted in the launch of a series of “surprise” inspections at other VA locations. Part of the 15-page report reads:
Because the Los Angeles VARO did not consistently follow VBA’s [Veterans Benefits Administration] controls, it is likely that VARO staff would have inappropriately destroyed the nine claims-related documents we found. The shredding of these documents would have prevented the documents from becoming part of the veterans’ permanent record and potentially affect veterans’ benefits.
Additionally, the report notes that the VARO had failed to provide any sort of documentation of shredding veterans’ logs over the the past two years, which goes against the “VBA’s requirement to log any material that was determined inappropriate for destruction.”
This is not the first time the VA has improperly destroyed veterans’ claims forms. As Hot Air has reported, “the VA has a history of destroying documents, but the IG team in this case says it was unable to substantiate claims that supervisors had ordered the shredding.” The report itself notes that “[d]uring the course of 2008-2009, OIG examined inappropriate shredding of veterans’ claim information at four VAROs.” Yet the problem was blamed on a lack of “training” and it does not appear anyone has been fired for the recurring incident: “We determined that SSD [Support Services Division] staff were not properly trained and their cursory reviews were inadequate to identify and separate any claims-related documents from other documents.”
In order to insure that this is not a “systemic issue,” the VA IG has launched another 10 “surprise inspections” at various VARO facilities throughout the nation:
In order to determine whether this is an isolated problem or a systemic issue, we have initiated surprise inspections at 10 selected VAROs across the nation. These 10 sites are Atlanta, GA; Baltimore, MD; Chicago, IL; Houston, TX; New Orleans, LA; Oakland, CA; Philadelphia, PA; Reno, NV; San Juan, PR; and St. Petersburg, FL.