Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Harry Mitchell grills VA over shredded records - "A breach of trust"

On Tuesday, the House Veterans Affairs Committee's Subcommittees on Investigation and Oversight and Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs held a joint meeting looking into the shredding of VA claims forms and tampering with records at certain VA offices.

(Meeting info here, with opening statements and written testimonies and a link to a recording of the meeting's webcast; Rep. Mitchell's opening statement here.)

From an Army Times report on the meeting -
A new report about Veterans Affairs Department employees squirreling away tens of thousands of unopened letters related to benefits claims is sparking fresh concerns that veterans and their survivors are being cheated out of money.

VA officials acknowledge further credibility problems based on a new report of a previously undisclosed 2007 incident in which workers at a Detroit regional office turned in 16,000 pieces of unprocessed mail and 717 documents turned up in New York in December during amnesty periods in which workers were promised no one would be penalized.


"It is impossible not to be shocked by the numbers from Detroit," said Rep. Harry Mitchell, D-Ariz., who chairs the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee’s oversight and investigations panel. "Shredding documents or burying them in the bottom drawer is a breach of trust. Whether that breach of trust comes as a consequence of inadequate training or negligent or deliberate behavior, Congress must not and will not tolerate it."

In his questions, Mitchell focused on what the VA's then-management knew of the problem (as evidenced by the amnesties) and if the root cause of the problem was due to mistraining of claims processors or due to a flaw in the organizational culture of the VA at the time. (Approximately 01:25:00 into the meeting

Nobody, least of all Congressman Mitchell, said the words "Bush Administration" but since the incident occurred in 2007...

Anyway, the meeting video is available on the committee's webpage. While the meeting is a little over 2 hours long, it is worth watching.

...Well, worth watching if you are looking for yet another reason to be ticked off at what the Bushies did to America and to America's servicemen and women for eight years.

Background on the issue can be found in an Army Times article here and from the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) here.

No comments: