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Veterans Claims Documents Discovered in Former Department of Veterans Services Employee’s Possession - Commonwealth to Investigate and Notify and Assist Affected Veterans

The Virginia Department of Veterans Services (“DVS”) announced today that a large number of documents, including veterans’ claims, were discovered on Sept. 29 in a storage unit belonging to a former DVS employee who worked at the agency’s veterans benefits office located at Richmond’s McGuire VA Medical Center (VAMC).

DVS officials retrieved and secured the documents at the agency’s Richmond headquarters, and are now reviewing the documents so that all affected veterans can be notified and assisted with any necessary actions to ensure that their claims have been properly filed. The Attorney General notified the Virginia State Police and requested it begin a criminal investigation.

Because agency documents were comingled with personal papers and possessions, the exact number of claims records affected is not yet known, but all appear to be dated between 2011 and mid-2015, and exclusively from the DVS benefits office at McGuire VAMC.

“We are in the process of reviewing documents and determining the status of all claims as quickly as we are able,” said John Newby, Commissioner of the Virginia Department of Veterans Services. “We are committed to providing additional information to impacted veterans and to the public as we determine the full scope of the situation and how many veterans may be affected.”

The former employee worked at DVS from January 2012 until August 25, 2015. Earlier in August 2015, DVS officials found unfiled claims in the employee’s office. Those claims were reviewed, and DVS contacted affected veterans to advise them and provide assistance. DVS terminated the employee at that time and has since assigned a new office manager for that location.

Secretary of Veterans and Defense Affairs John Harvey and Commissioner Newby identified the need to move from a paper-based system to an electronic claims filing system at the beginning of the administration. All DVS benefits offices converted to an electronic system by June 2015. Virginia was the first state to fully automate its veterans’ claims filing process. Under current practice, all claims are now tracked electronically and manually by senior managers to ensure that no documents are misplaced or lost and that all claims are filed in a timely manner.

“I am deeply concerned about the veterans whose records have been mishandled, and I have directed my team to use all available resources to identify these men and women and ensure that they receive the benefits and care that they are due,” said Secretary Harvey. “At the beginning of this administration, we identified a vulnerability in the Commonwealth’s claims process, and we began implementing a solution to this serious deficiency. Regrettably, our fears were justified, and the danger we were working so hard to address was already a reality. We stand ready to assist any and all veterans impacted, and we are determined to prevent any similar mishandling of information from happening in the future.”

Veterans whose claims were contained in these documents will be contacted by DVS personnel as the investigation continues. Additional information is available on the agency website at www.dvs.virginia.gov. If you are a veteran who filed a claim at DVS’s benefit office located at McGuire VAMC and believe that you may have been affected, please contact DVS at veteransassistance@dvs.virginia.gov, or (804) 786-0286.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ’s)
Q: I am a veteran who filed a claim with the DVS benefits office at the McGuire VAMC. Am I impacted?
A: We don’t yet know. Our technical experts are reviewing all the materials returned to the Commonwealth to determine the number of impacted veterans, their identities and the status of their claims. This will take a number of weeks to complete. If your claims information is in the materials, you will be contacted shortly.

Q: Were all claims at McGuire’s benefits office impacted?
A: No. At this time, we believe only claims filed by one particular former DVS employee.

Q: What is the timeframe?
A: The investigation to date indicates that the recovered documents date from late 2011 through June-2015.

Q: Did the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (“the VA”) or the McGuire VA Medical Center have anything to do with this?
A: No. DVS employees are provided space at the McGuire VA Medical Center to assist veterans, but neither the VA nor its McGuire VA Medical Center are involved in this incident. Specifically, no VA personnel were involved with the collection or retention of the discovered documents.

Q: Is there anything I can do now to see whether I’ve been impacted?
A: Yes. We encourage all veterans to either visit eBenefits (www.ebenefits.va.gov), or visit one of DVS’s 26 Benefits Offices located throughout the Commonwealth. Trained representatives can check on the status of your claim or benefit. Please consult our webpage http://www.dvs.virginia.gov/benefits/ for the Benefits Office nearest to you.