IG: Yes, The Los Angeles VA Is Shredding Vets’ Claims

disabled-veteransIt’s been confirmed. Employees at the Los Angeles VA Regional Office shredded paperwork related to veterans’ disability claims.

A new report from the Department of Veterans Affairs inspector general discovered that a tip-off received in January alleging that staff improperly shredded documents is nothing short of true.

According to investigators, it’s not clear how many documents were shredded prior to the start of the review, but they did find nine documents related to veterans’ claims discarded in the shredding bin, despite policies existing to prevent this exact practice. Five of the documents had missing signatures from both employee and supervisor.

In one case, VA staff received a letter confirming that a veteran suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder was unemployable and promptly placed the document into a red box designated for shredding. Staff did not include the claim in the electronic system.

“Due to noncompliance with VBA policy, poor controls, inadequate oversight, and lack of training, the Los Angeles VARO put veterans’ claims-related documents at risk for inappropriate destruction,” investigators found. “Because the Los Angeles VARO did not consistently follow VBA’s controls, it is likely that VARO staff would have inappropriately destroyed the nine claims-related documents we found.”

This isn’t the first time VA has had a problem with employees wantonly shredding essential documents. Following revelations of the practice in 2008, VA established the position of Records Management Officer.

So what happened in Los Angeles?

No such position existed from August 2014 up until the time of the IG’s investigation in February 2015.

In August 2014, the person who filled the position of RMO was promoted. Those duties were passed to untrained staff from the Support Services Division, who conducted what they referred to as a “cursory review” of documents before they were tossed in the shredding bin.

Investigators soon realized that a “cursory review” just meant that they’d sit and watch as documents were dumped into shredding bins.

“We determined that SSD staff were not properly trained and their cursory reviews were inadequate to identify and separate any claims-related documents from other documents,” the report noted. “They were not familiar with claims-processing activities and lacked the knowledge needed to identify claims or claims-related documents.”

The troubling nature of document shredding at the Los Angeles office has prompted the IG to launch investigations in 10 regional offices across the country.

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Originally published by the Daily Caller News Foundation

Veterans Affairs Keeps Buying Bogus And Counterfeit Medical Equipment

Internal correspondence between the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and a major supplier of medical devices reveals that the VA has been buying bogus and counterfeit medical equipment, The Washington Times reports.

The equipment comes from the so-called gray market and threatens to endanger patient’s lives. Johnson & Johnson brought the matter to the VA’s attention and placed the blame on procurement rules.

“The product being sold may not have been stored properly (high temperature, high humidity, no pest control, etc.), which could create patient risk,” Paul B. Smith, government account director for the company, told the VA.

“We do not believe that the VA intended for its efforts to utilize new procurement tools such as reverse auctions to result in these outcomes,” a company official added, according to The Washington Times. Johnson & Johnson’s concerns date two years previous, stemming from a corporate investigation in which they found that sellers would steal devices from hospitals and attempt to pawn them off into the gray market, only for agencies like the VA to purchase them. More attention has been given to the issue only in September of this year after an inspector general report was released.

However, the issue has been raised before not just externally to the agency, but internally, as well. Back in 2012, a VA advisory group stated that the agency should not be using reverse auctions to purchase “clinically oriented products.” Acquisition officials apparently declined to take their recommendations seriously. But there may be some indications of a change as of now. The VA has said that it promises it will look into modifying the procurement process so as to exclude gray market purchases.

In the meantime, at least seven surgical supply purchases have been made by the agency across the U.S. One example highlighted by Johnson & Johnson was a distributor delivering the VA a surgical device without a box and wrapped in rubber bands. Concerns are being raised that these products are actually used in medical rooms to treat patients.

This article was originally published on the Daily Caller News Foundation.

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