Report Summary

Title: Review of Alleged Mail Mismanagement at VBA’s Baltimore VA Regional Office
Report Number: 14-03644-225
Issue Date: 7/14/2014
City/State: Baltimore, MD
VA Office: Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA)
Report Author: Office of Audits and Evaluations
Report Type: Audits, Reviews & Evaluations
Release Type: Unrestricted
Summary: On June 19, 2014, the Acting Director of the Baltimore VA Regional Office (VARO) alerted the OIG that approximately 8,000 documents and claims folders for 80 veterans were inappropriately stored in a supervisor’s office. Desk audits of staff office space performed by VARO management revealed about 1,500 additional documents containing Personally Identifiable Information (PII) were inappropriately stored in employees’ individual workspaces. We initiated this review to assess the allegations of a lack of accountability for mail management and benefits claims processing at the VARO.
OIG dispatched a team of benefits inspectors to the Baltimore VARO from June 21 to 27, 2014, and substantiated the conditions reported. We determined a supervisor had inappropriately stockpiled about 8,000 documents in an office. Most of the documents reviewed contained PII and consisted of processed and unprocessed claims-related mail with the potential to affect benefits payments. Some veterans’ claims, found in the supervisor’s office, required additional processing actions to finalize rating decisions or award benefits payments. Generally, these conditions occurred because the VARO did not use available controls to identify claims folders stored at one location for a lengthy period or adequately monitor cycle-time performance reports for its non-rating related claims inventory. Further, VARO management did not perform quarterly desk audits of staff workspace as required. As a result, more than 9,500 documents and 80 claims folders lacked the oversight necessary to ensure timely claims processing and the protection of veteran and employee PII. A proactive approach to addressing these management issues is needed to rebuild trust with veterans and other VA stakeholders. We recommended the Under Secretary for Benefits implement a plan to ensure proper control of documents and claims folders, staff training on mail handling and workload management, quarterly desk audits, and mail mismanagement impact assessments at the Baltimore VARO. The Under Secretary for Benefits concurred with our recommendations, provided an acceptable corrective action plan, and quickly responded to ensure this mail was processed. Further, the Under Secretary for Benefits directed a 100 percent regional office wide, facility, and desk audit for mail or documents across the country.