Single Keystroke Deletes 464,000 VA Documents

Wednesday, 12 Jun 2013 04:07 PM

By Sandy Fitzgerald

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About 464,000 electronic documents and images are missing from a Veterans Administration computer system in Cleveland after a database administrator mistakenly deleted them.

The records include active loan files, appraisal documents, and grant paperwork for veterans who qualify for the Specially Adapted Housing Grant, reports Army Times.

The records are missing amid scrutiny due to a growing claims backlog, and represent documents that had been uploaded to the VA's home-loan online applications program since March.

The VA has asked lenders, appraisers, and reviewers to upload again the appraisals for pending property closings, but isn't saying how long the process will take or if the incident will delay applicants' loan and grant applications.

It isn't identifying which veterans or active-duty service members were affected.

VA spokeswoman Joe Schuda said the VA's top lenders, producing more than 70 percent of the volume, said the "impact on closings, if any, was between one and three days."

Ohio Republican Sen. Rob Portman is demanding answers.

"I understand the Department of Veterans Affairs is under much scrutiny due to the growing claims backlog, which now stands at 860,000," he wrote to VA Secretary Eric Shinseki. "Due to that scrutiny, the 464,000 lost files should have garnered more transparency and communication."

Portman was referring to a benefits backlog that grew four-fold over the past four years, according to VA data. Between March 9 and May 20, the backlog in compensation claims fell 8 percent, to 538,679. Experts say it is too early to tell whether that decline will be sustained.

The Obama administration estimated in April the backlog could grow in the coming months before finally turning downward — and eventually to zero, officials hope — by sometime in 2015.

Portman said more details are needed about the lost housing data, whether they will delay loan or grant applications, and if the VA is taking steps to keep similar incidents from occurring again.

The VA first reported the incident on June 6, after

The files went missing on May 24, and the VA reported the incident June 6, The Federal Times reports.

Portman also wants to know what the impact will be on the other 30 percent of the VA's volume.

"I trust the department is committed to providing the best service to the men and women who have proudly served our nation, but this incident only further exacerbates the frustration many veterans feel from the claims-processing process," Portman said.

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