The Department of Veterans Affairs just confirmed that 10 documents mistakenly ended up in shredder bins in three regional offices: Detroit, St. Louis, and Waco, Texas. The mishap was discovered during a random VA Inspector General's audit. The St. Petersburg, Fla., regional office is currently being investigated by the IG for improper shredding.
"We're still trying to get a handle on how widespread the problem is and I can't say with certainly that this has never happened before," Alison Aikele, VA Press secretary told CBS News.
"This is potentially one of the worst cases of mismanagement I have seen in a long time," said Joe Davis, a spokesman for the Veteran of Foreign Wars, the largest organization of combat veterans in the United States. "We have to believe that the VA will right this wrong."
The documents were identified as any piece of mail that would require the VA to take action on a veteran's file such as applications for financial benefits. It takes between six to nine months to have a claim processed and this type of error could place unnecessary hardship on the Vet awaiting financial assistance.
"There is no way for a vet to know if their claim has been shredded or misplaced," says Aikele. The VA is urging all vets with pending claims to immediately call 800-827-1000 to verify the status of their claim.
"The VA's Inspector General is currently conducting an extensive investigation to determine that this is not a more widespread situation," says Aikele. All 57 VA regional offices are currently under strict orders by the VA administration to certify in writing that they are taking the necessary steps to determine that they don't have any documents in the shredder bins that should have been acted upon according to Aikele.
There are more questions than answers.
"We don't really know how this happened. It was either done by an employee unknowingly making an error or it was put in there," says Aikele.
James Peake, Secretary of the VA will ultimately take corrective actions once all the investigations are completed.
By Yvonne Miller-Halee