22 Jun VA Shredding Documents: Systemic Issue or Human Error?
When veterans submit a disability claim to the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) they expect that the VA will take special care to preserve all evidence and documents relating to that claim. Unfortunately, this may not be the case. In July of last year, investigators with Veterans Affairs conducted a surprise audit on 10 regional VA offices around the country. These spot check audits revealed the troubling fact that the VA has been shredding documents related to veterans’ claims.
According to Military.com, investigators at the 10 regional offices sifted through 438,000 documents that were waiting to be shredded. Of these documents, 155 were related to veterans’ claims, 69 of which should not have been shredded and were incorrectly placed in shred bins. If a document related to a veteran’s claim is improperly shredded, the fact that the document is “missing” could seriously affect the claim. Incorrect shredding could result in serious issues such as loss of evidence, delays in processing, or even an incorrect decision.
Systemic Issue or Human Error?
Now that the problem has been brought to light, the question is whether it is a systemic problem or one caused simply by human error. The VA Office of Inspector General believes that the problem is a systemic issue given that the VA’s shredding policies were not followed by VA offices across the country. On the other hand, some officers in the Veterans Benefits Administration feel that the inappropriate shredding problem can be explained simply as a byproduct of human error given that the number of documents that were mistakenly placed in the shred bins was quite small. These officers note that the error rate for the VA offices that were inspected is only 0.0025 percent.
Back in 2009, Veterans Affairs actually had problems with this very same issue. At the time, an audit of various VA regional offices revealed that employees had mistakenly set aside 450 claims-related documents for shredding. In 2009 the VA responded to the issue with a call for more employee training, and that is exactly what they are doing again today. In response to the most recent document shredding audit, the VA has designed a new process for managing its records and will soon train its employees on the new policy.
The VA hopes that its new electronic claims processing system will also help prevent loss of access to important documents. The VA has already converted more than six million paper files into electronic folders as part of the new electronic claims processing system. This has greatly reduced the number of hard copy documents that the regional offices have to deal with and will hopefully help the VA reduce the number of claims-related documents that are improperly shredded in the future.
If you suspect that the VA has improperly shredded documents related to your veterans disability claim, or if you would like to discuss a potential claim in South Carolina, contact our experienced lawyers today at (843) 216-8860.