Veterans Department A Bureaucratic Mess



Jason Scott is one of nearly 350,000 veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan who depend on the VA for health care. When CBS News met him two years ago, he was already worrying about what would happen after he was discharged from the army.

"Getting lost in the VA system is definitely a concern," Scott said at the time.

Those fears may have been justified. The administration recently turned up 16,000 pieces of unopened mail at its Detroit office. Another 132 documents which belonged in veterans' claim files ended up in the shred bins at four regional offices.

"Had we not discovered this situation," the VA's inspector general wrote, "some veterans claims may have languished with no action or been inappropriately denied."

"It is unacceptable to have them lost, to have their dates changed, to have them shredded. This is not acceptable," said Rep. Harry Mitchell, D-Ariz., who serves on the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs.

The inspector general reviewed 390 claims submitted to the New York office and found that 220 of them - more than half - had been deliberately misdated to make it look like claims were being processed faster than they really were.

VA workers are overwhelmed by paperwork - 160 million pages a year - and as a result cut corners or just plain screw up.

"[They told] me my whole file had been lost. They had no idea where it was so I had to recreate the whole file," says Carol Politz, who had to submit a second claim on behalf of her late husband, a Vietnam vet.

She was assured that this time it would be handled expeditiously.

"It's a year and I'm still waiting to hear something positive," Politz says.

And what about Jason Scott? His home is in Florida but his records ended up in Chicago. When the VA transferred them to Florida, they were lost.

Jason is working on his MBA and says he's just waiting to graduate so "I can get a job and get real health care."


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