Thursday, October 16, 2008


VA claims found in piles to be shredded

By Rick Maze - Staff writerPosted : Thursday Oct 16, 2008 16:35:50 EDT

Department of Veterans Affairs regional offices have been ordered to immediately stop shredding documents after an investigation found some benefits claims and supporting documents among piles of papers waiting to be destroyed.

Claims often include personal records supplied by veterans that are not duplicated in government files and might be difficult to replace, such as certificates for births, deaths and marriage.

In a statement, VA Secretary James Peake said only a handful of documents were found among piles of documents set aside to be shredded. But he is not pleased.

“I insist on the highest possible standards for processing and safeguarding information in VA’s custody,” Peake said. “It is unacceptable that documents important to a veteran’s claim for benefits should be misplaced or destroyed.”

Peake said three of VA’s 57 regional offices were involved, without naming them. Veterans of Foreign Wars said they were told four regional offices — in Detroit, St. Louis, St. Petersburg, Fla., and Waco, Texas — were identified as having documents in shredding bins that should not have been there.

VFW National Commander Glen Gardner said the problem could be significant.

“The VA inspector general conducted a routine investigation of Detroit’s mailroom and discovered five documents in the shredder bin, then three pieces are found in St. Louis, two in Waco, and some more in St. Petersburg,” he said. “The question that begs to be asked and answered is how many veterans had their disability and compensation claims disappear down a paper shredder?”

Peake said VA’s inspector general continues to investigate and that anyone who violated policies on protecting documents will be held accountable.

Among the records found waiting to be shredded were applications for disability compensation, education benefits, home loans and pensions for low-income veterans, officials said.

The halt in shredding was ordered by Patrick Dunne, the retired Navy rear admiral sworn in just weeks ago as VA’s new undersecretary for benefits.
Dunne’s order aims to prevent any documents from being destroyed until officials can determine if this is a widespread problem.

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