By Debbie Gregory.
Last January, the Office of Inspector General (OIG) received an anonymous allegation that staff at the Los Angeles VA Regional Office (VARO) were inappropriately shredding mail regarding veterans’ disability compensation claims. It was also alleged that VARO supervisors were instructing their staff to shred these documents. The following month, the OIG/Office of Audits and Evaluations conducted an unannounced inspection to evaluate the merits of the allegation.
The Veterans Benefits Administration’s has a written policy on management of veterans’ and other governmental paper records. Although unable to verify or identify what had taken place prior to their visit, the inspectors did find nine claims-related documents inappropriately placed in shred bins. Eight of the nine documents had the potential to affect veterans’ benefits. There were not able to say with any certainty that VARO supervisors were instructing their staff to shred claims-related documents.
“The shredding of these documents would have prevented the documents from becoming part of the veterans’ permanent record and potentially affect veterans’ benefits,” the auditors said. “We could not determine whether the VARO staff improperly shredded documents prior to our review. This is because the VARO destroyed documents prior to our arrival, as part of the VARO’s normal records disposition process.”
In response to their findings, the VA’s main headquarters in Washington said Los Angeles has now filled a position that had been empty for months and that was in charge of training staff. Los Angeles VARO management has provided VARO staff training on proper shredding procedures. In order to determine whether this is an isolated problem or a systemic issue, the OIG will initiate unannounced inspections at 10 selected VAROs across the nation.
If you would like to read the interim report in its entirety, visit www.va.gov/oig/pubs/VAOIG-15-04652-448.pdf
To report suspected wrongdoing in VA programs and operations, you can call 800-488-8244 or Email: [email protected]
Hotline information is available at: http://www.va.gov/oig/hotline