• IG: Yes, Here Is Proof Los Angeles VA Is Shredding Vets’ Claims

    It’s been confirmed. Employees at the Los Angeles VA Regional Office shredded paperwork related to veterans’ disability claims.

    A new report from the Department of Veterans Affairs inspector general discovered that a tip-off received in January alleging that staff improperly shredded documents is nothing short of true.

    According to investigators, it’s not clear how many documents were shredded prior to the start of the review, but they did find nine documents related to veterans’ claims discarded in the shredding bin, despite policies existing to prevent this exact practice. Five of the documents had missing signatures from both employee and supervisor.

    In one case, VA staff received a letter confirming that a veteran suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder was unemployable and promptly placed the document into a red box designated for shredding. Staff did not include the claim in the electronic system.

    “Due to noncompliance with VBA policy, poor controls, inadequate oversight, and lack of training, the Los Angeles VARO put veterans’ claims-related documents at risk for inappropriate destruction,” investigators found. “Because the Los Angeles VARO did not consistently follow VBA’s controls, it is likely that VARO staff would have inappropriately destroyed the nine claims-related documents we found.”

    This isn’t the first time VA has had a problem with employees wantonly shredding essential documents. Following revelations of the practice in 2008, VA established the position of Records Management Officer.

    So what happened in Los Angeles?

    No such position existed from August 2014 up until the time of the IG’s investigation in February 2015.

    In August 2014, the person who filled the position of RMO was promoted. Those duties were passed to untrained staff from the Support Services Division, who conducted what they referred to as a “cursory review” of documents before they were tossed in the shredding bin.

    Investigators soon realized that a “cursory review” just meant that they’d sit and watch as documents were dumped into shredding bins.

    “We determined that SSD staff were not properly trained and their cursory reviews were inadequate to identify and separate any claims-related documents from other documents,” the report noted. “They were not familiar with claims-processing activities and lacked the knowledge needed to identify claims or claims-related documents.”

    The troubling nature of document shredding at the Los Angeles office has prompted the IG to launch investigations in 10 regional offices across the country.

    Follow Jonah Bennett on Twitter

     

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