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VA Document Tampering and Mishandling are Subjects of Oversight Hearing

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Washington, March 4, 2009 | comments
Washington, D.C. – On Tuesday, two subcommittees of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs held a joint hearing on document tampering and mishandling incidences that occurred at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

The document mishandling issue surfaced last year when, during a VA Office of Inspector General audit of VA mailroom operations, important veterans’ documents were found in a ‘shred bin’. In a follow-up nationwide investigation, VA discovered hundreds of inappropriately placed documents at forty-one different VA regional offices.

In a separate incident, document tampering issues were discovered by VA officials in July 2008 during a routine site visit at the VA regional office in New York. Committee Ranking Member Steve Buyer of Indiana requested an investigation of the situation in which erroneous receipt-of-claim dates were intentionally entered into VA’s work tracking system to artificially bolster productivity measures. Though the office’s performance was skewed, no resultant harm was done to veterans.
During the hearing, Congressman Doug Lamborn of Colorado, Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs, was joined by Congressman Phil Roe, M.D. of Tennessee, Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigation. Both members voiced deep concern over the issues, and encouraged VA to accelerate its move toward an electronic, paperless claims system to help mitigate such problems. Lamborn reminded members of a bill he introduced, which became a provision within Public law 110-389, to require VA to create such a system.

“While my idea for a paperless rules-based system would not be a panacea for all of VA’s problems, I am convinced that with electronic files, the shredding incident could have been avoided,” Lamborn said. “When veterans submit claims for benefits, they must be able to have trust that VA will adjudicate them in a timely and accurate fashion. Unfortunately, the shredding incident has violated this trust for many veterans and it is now VA’s job to regain it. It is very unfortunate that the actions of a few have tarnished the work of so many dedicated VA employees.”

“Our nation’s veterans deserve better than this,” Roe said. “The mishandling of claims documents is unacceptable. Veterans must be assured that when important documents are submitted to VA, they are immediately entered into their files, and processed in a timely manner.”

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Tags: Veterans