Battleland

Guess the VA Does Have a Paperwork Problem…

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VAOIG

Files stacked atop filing cabinets at the VA's Winston-Salem office.

Veterans routinely complain about how much paperwork they have to generate to apply for VA benefits. They may have a point: the Department of Veterans Affairs inspector general reported Thursday that paper had piled so high at the VA’s regional office in Winston-Salem, N.C., that it “appeared to have the potential to compromise the integrity of the building.”

Noted the IG:

The volume of folders and inadequate storage seems to indicate the VARO [VA Regional Office] has exceeded the capacity to store files. This over-storage creates an unsafe environment for the employees, overexposes many claims folders to risk of fire/water damage, inadvertent loss and possible misplacement, as well as impedes VARO productivity by reducing access to many folders in a timely manner. We observed files stored approximately two feet high and two rows deep on top of file cabinets. File cabinets were placed so closely together that file drawers could not be opened completely. We estimated that approximately 37,000 claims folders were stored on top of file cabinets. We also observed files stored on the floor and stacked, as space permitted, in boxes along walls. The attached photos provide illustrations of the excessive and unsafe file storage at this VARO.

The excess weight of the stored files has the potential to compromise the structural integrity of the sixth floor of the facility. We noticed floors bowing under the excess weight to the extent that the tops of file cabinets were noticeably unlevel throughout the storage area. We asked the responsible Property Manager within the General Services Administration (GSA) for a copy of the most recent inspection report and load bearing study of the building. The Property Manager could not locate any evidence of a load bearing study, but thought that such a study was conducted approximately 10 years ago. He said that he would coordinate with GSA’s Civil Engineering office to determine whether a new study might be conducted. Additionally, the Property Manager provided us with a copy of a GSA fire inspection report, dated May 8, 2012. In the report, the Regional Fire Protection Engineer expressed concerns about “floor stack loading” on the sixth floor of the building, stating that it constituted “an extreme fire load and a possible structural overloading concern.”

The excessive file storage and building integrity issues observed pose unnecessary risks to the safety of VA employees working in the building. VARO safety meetings, quarterly VARO safety inspections, and an annual workplace evaluation conducted by the VISN 6 Safety Manager all disclosed concerns with boxes of files blocking exits, files stacked too close to overhead sprinklers, and files falling from the tops of file cabinets onto employees. In 2011, one employee experienced a minor shoulder injury when claims folders fell on him from the top of a filing cabinet. Narrow aisles due to file cabinet placement may also impede employees from exiting file storage areas in case of emergency or crisis situations. Egress may be especially hampered when staff use ladders or file carts to store claims folders in the crowded space…

GSA conducted a load bearing study of the 6th floor. On Wednesday June 13, 2012, the Regional Office was notified that the estimated load on the 6th floor was 164 psf, which exceeded the capacity of 125 psf for the floor.

The IG alerted VA headquarters to the problem, which has led to the relocation of much of the paperwork, and plans for better and safer long-term storage.

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18 comments
jrfa4846
jrfa4846

I have had a claim in with the Winston Salem office for 2 years, I've had 4 hearing test, one including a hearing test that I paid for myself.  The other 3 were thru the VA, I have asked questions to the  VA audiologist, get the run around about my hearing loss.  They act like it's none of my business that I have a hearing loss.  The test I paid for myself, the conclusion was that my hearing loss came from being in the military. Was given a whisper test upon entering the Army and a whisper test when I left.  The irony is that the VA does not recognize the whisper test as being a valid test for hearing loss.

peaceangel
peaceangel

interestingly i had asked the va if they had any record of my father and they said that they did not. He had died by the time i was able to find out about him no honors because no records how will they fix that. what a mess

SavingOurSoldiers
SavingOurSoldiers

I am a disabled Veteran that has suffered for 40 years due to Chemical Exposure while serving for 5 years in the Army.  I have started a Foundation to help our nations Veterans.  This is the job our Veterans Administration should be doing but isn't.  The Veterans Administration spends so much money giving out bonus's to processors for denying these claims instead of helping those who deserve the assistance.  The VA should be giving out bonuses on the numbers of Veterans who they actually helped.  This Bonus money could go a very long way in helping us.  

22 of our Veterans are comitting suicide every day after they have served.  This is an epidemic, and The VA is the direct cause.

Please join me and offer a hand up to those who have served in our Military.  You can go to the Guestbook pages of omy site and help a Veteran directly, or you can help SOS help them in need.   www.saving-our-soldiers.org 

peaceangel
peaceangel

My husband just retired and filed a claim for disablitiy, they told us that it would take till next yr to finish processing the claim. he can't stand for long periods of time and i because disable three yrs ago. We went from surviving to retiring and asking for help to survive. 22 yrs of service and now my children serve. my side 7 generations his 2 generations and yet there is no one that can help strange huh?

Mike Rector
Mike Rector

That show's you an american vet will never give up.

Jim S.
Jim S.

Not bringing the VA into the 21st century or even the latter 20th for decades, ignoring the Vets in the process, Agent Orange, PTS, Gulf War Syndrome to name but a few, and Especially doing Nothing, till the present administration of the VA and executive branch, as two more wars of choice are waged, and yes Afghanistan became when the country cheered the first drum beat pointed at Iraq!!!

The new 'magnetic ribbons', the 'parades' and 'welcome home celebrations', with no demand for sacrifice get same results, but 'parades' only last a few hours on one day! Think 'Desert Storm' and 'Gulf War Syndrome', Ignored till the last couple of years, finally, after the 'Parades'! Have the 'Welcome Home Parades' but at each the one word that should be spoke and on the minds of All, 'Sacrifice', Demand It, You Owe It!

No Revenues {nor private capital economic investments, free market capitalism} = No Sacrifice = No Support = DeJa-Vu all over again!. Now a decade and counting, told to go shopping, added to the previous decades of under funding the VA, while the peoples reps Still try and lay blame on the Agency, after rubber stamping wars and costs of and those represented cheer on these wars!

While the wealthy and other investors garner their booty, still, from both and many have the chutz·pa to call themselves more patriotic{?} then others wrapped in those false flags, using false slogans and various cheap symbols of and then seek one day events or parades to wave all that patriotism, call it "Supporting the Troops", then go home and either ignore or forget about those that actually sacrificed for the country!

USN '67-'71 All Shore GMG3 Vietnam In Country '70-'71

VengaMooo
VengaMooo

Insane, Have they not heard of "computers" or "paperless" at the VA? Apparently not lol.

On-Privacy.tk

Tim Sarbin
Tim Sarbin

If only there were some sort of way to magically store these papers in digital form as to remove the need for physical copies. We better get a government agency together to invent something quick!

Jeff Sockwell
Jeff Sockwell

How about this new computer thingy? Maybe, I dunno, invent some kind of electronic record keeping system?

1AirCav69
1AirCav69

Why am I not surprised, and especially not surprised this is the Winston-Salem, VARO.  As a former Readjustment Counseling Therapist with the Greensboro, NC Vet Center, I had patients file claims and have to deal with these morons.  Just one of many examples was a door gunner who had applied for a PTSD claim.  I wrote in support of it as his therapist.  I had his 201 file and it was loaded with information.  Door Gunner MOS, door gunner school, um-teen Air Medals, Crewman Wings, and his last assignment was the 229th Aviation, 1st Air Cav Div. RVN.  His denial came quickly. "No evidence veteran ever served as a door gunner.  My best friend, a 60 gunner with the 101st, was turned down for PTSD and Prostate Cancer even after the VA diagnosed him with PTSD and he'd already had been operated on for Prostate Cancer, "No evidence the veteran was treated for PTSD during service." No evidence the veteran ever had Prostate Cancer."  Just two of the many horror stories of this VARO.  It also took 22 months for his claim to finally be approved.

Judy Adams
Judy Adams

I'm guessing the building was designed by the same architect who designed the UMASS Amherst library?

JackLinks
JackLinks

I wonder how many of those files pictured are a direct result of Cheney/Bush's "Crusade for oil" in Iraq?

1AirCav69
1AirCav69

Most were from Johnson's quest for asian oil.  Sorry to disappoint you.

Sue Frasier
Sue Frasier

What the news media questions here is WHY? was VA Secretary Eric Shinseki allowed by President Obama to do a world tour and publicity circus for the entire duration of the first Administration, and only NOW, just days before a major election, are all of these stories about VA coming into the headlines?? Talk about your AWOL missing in action leadership? We pass through these headlines of VA crisis just about every administration, and the news media is partly to blame for never confronting, probing, investigating, or questioning VA-issued press releases up to the point that all Hell is breaking loose inside the system. The news media has to stop "Parrot-Heading" VA news because the agency has a firmly established record as Class A Liars!! and Incompetence. ------Sue Frasier, Army 1970, national veterans activist

LastWaltz
LastWaltz

Disgusting.  Hire more people to clear the backlog!  At this point, I'm thinking the VA has something to hide. 


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