Michigan Veterans Attorney Criticizes Shredding of Claims Documents at VA Offices
May 13, 2016
Northville, MI (Law Firm Newswire) May 13, 2016 – An Office of Inspector General (OIG) report has revealed the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has been systematically destroying documents related to veterans’ disability compensation claims.
VA investigators performed spot checks at 10 veterans benefits offices across the nation. They went through around 438,000 documents that were put in bins for shredding at the regional offices. According to the report, staff were found to be destroying claims-related mail at six regional offices. There are a total of 56 VA regional offices.
“The findings of the inspector general’s report should not be taken lightly,” said Jim Fausone, a Michigan veterans attorney. “The report may have uncovered just the tip of the iceberg regarding this problem. The irresponsible actions of VA staff members could have serious consequences for veterans who are waiting for their claims to be processed.”
According to the findings released on April 14, 69 of 155 claims-related documents were incorrectly put in shredding bins. At least two of the 69 documents had direct impact on benefits while nine could potentially affect veterans’ claims.
The audits were conducted on July 20, 2015. Investigators discovered problems at the regional offices in Atlanta, Chicago, Houston, New Orleans, Philadelphia and Reno, Nevada. The random inspections were the result of an anonymous tip the OIG received in January 2015. Los Angeles VA regional office employees were allegedly shredding documents related to veterans’ claims.
The OIG report described the issue as systemic and serious. It said, “… it is highly likely that claims-related documents at other VAROs [VA regional offices] are being improperly scheduled for destruction that could result in loss of claims and evidence, incorrect decisions and delays in claims processing.”
According to VA policy, both staff members and supervisors are required to sign off on documents scheduled for shredding in order to prevent inappropriate destruction. None of the 69 claims-related documents in the OIG inspection had the necessary signatures.
“Such violations are simply unacceptable,” said Fausone. “The VA should work toward improving their records management policy and take the OIG’s recommendations on board in order to avoid such errors in the future.”
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