The Office of Inspector General for Veterans Affairs just found staffers with the Los Angeles VA Regional Office improperly shredded numerous disability claims, tossing them in the trash rather than giving them proper review.
"We substantiated that the Los Angeles VARO staff was not following [policy] on management of veterans' and other governmental paper records," the IG interim report stated. "We found nine claims-related documents that the [Los Angeles VA Regional Office, VARO] may have shredded prior to our review, we found nine claims-related documents that VARO staff incorrectly placed in personal shred bins for non-claims related documents."
So what does that mean for veterans' care? The inspectors found "eight of the nine documents" that were shredded "had the potential to affect veterans' benefits."
The IG report also stated: "The shredding of these documents would have prevented the documents from becoming part of the veterans' permanent record and potentially affect veterans' benefits."
Examples of the documents that were shredded included disability-compensation claims submitted by two homeless veterans, and a letter from a medical provider confirming a veteran was unemployable due to "service-connected post-traumatic stress disorder," the report found.
On the first, the inspectors wrote: "If the veterans had to resubmit their benefit applications, the VARO's error would have delayed the consideration" of their claims. And on the second, the report concluded: "The veteran may not have received consideration for an increase in benefits to which he may have been entitled. Additionally, if the veteran had to resubmit the medical documentation, the VARO’s error would have delayed the consideration of the veteran’s claim."
The investigators concluded the mistakes were made because staffers didn't receive the proper training.
"[Staffers] are not familiar with claims-processing activities and lack the knowledge needed to identify claims or claims-related documents," the report stated. "Additionally, there is no control preventing VARO staff incorrectly placing claim-related documents in red shred boxes instead of red envelopes."