- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 19, 2015

The Los Angeles VA shredded veterans’ benefit claims without ever processing them, the department’s inspector general said in a report Tuesday that suggests the problems exposed last year continue.

Investigators auditing the Los Angeles office of the Veterans Administration found eight benefits claims that were designated for shredding, instead of being processed and entered into the agency’s electronic system.

Two homeless veterans submitted disability compensation claims, which were marked for shredding.

Another veteran had a letter send to the L.A. office by his VA doctor, claiming that he was unemployable because of his service-connected post-traumatic stress disorder. This was also designated for shredding, and had it actually been destroyed, the office would not have the additional evidence necessary to make a claim decision for this patient, the investigators concluded.

Investigators also said it’s impossible to know how many veterans had their claims shredded before the problem was spotted.

“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.”

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The VA regional office did not respond to requests for comment.

But 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.

The VA also said there was no evidence that supervisors instructed employees to shred the claims, but in a statement the agency said it will try to do better.

“We recognize the importance of maintaining the public’s trust and the confidence of our Veterans and their families. We will work diligently to ensure that they continue to receive all benefits they earned,” the agency said.

Concerned Veterans for America said the shredding denied veterans the help they earned through their service.

“Rather than make sure each veteran’s voice was heard, and each claim was handled professionally, VA officials instead effectively silenced those who fought for our freedom and security, casually sending their letters to the shredder,” Pete Hegseth, the group’s CEO, said in a statement.

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