Report Summary

Title: Interim Report - VBA's Efforts to Effectively Obtain Service Treatment Records and Official Military Personnel Files
Report Number: 14-00657-144
Issue Date: 5/15/2014
City/State: St. Petersburg, FL
VA Office: Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA)
Report Author: Office of Audits and Evaluations
Report Type: Audits, Reviews & Evaluations
Release Type: Unrestricted
Summary: We are conducting this audit to determine whether the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) is receiving required Service Treatment Records (STR) information from DoD to timely process veterans’ disability claims, and also to assess VBA’s effectiveness in ensuring STRs and official military personnel files (OMPF) are provided timely to regional offices (RO). During our ongoing work, we conducted a site visit and tour at the RO in St. Petersburg, FL. We identified file storage and mail processing issues requiring attention and action by the Under Secretary for Benefits. RO employees shared information during interviews that supported our observations and the issues identified. The RO has a large file room used to store claims folders, as well as STRs and copies of OMPFs that have been combined with claims folders. We observed that the file room was overfilled with records. As a result, RO personnel have encountered difficulties locating files and in moving files in the permanent shelving units due to the volume and weight of the files. The Intake Processing Center (IPC) within the RO receives incoming documents and files from the mailroom. We determined that mailroom personnel did not date stamp STR files and copies of OMPFs files at the time of receipt. Without this information, RO management cannot review and assess potential issues and delays with receiving and processing STR and OMPF requests. Once documents and files are delivered to the IPC, employees sort and prepare evidence mail, which includes STRs and copies of OMPFs. Claims processors use evidence mail to further develop and make decisions on veterans’ disability claims. IPC employees reported that there was about a 3 week delay in sorting and processing evidence mail received from the mailroom. In an effort to address these issues immediately, we are issuing an Interim Report-Management Advisory Memo, and have made three recommendations to help ensure efficient file storage and mail processing at the RO. Reporting on these issues allows VBA the opportunity to take timely corrective actions. The Under Secretary for Benefits concurred with our recommendations and provided suitable action plans. Based on actions taken, we consider two recommendations closed. We will follow up as required on the other recommendation and continue with our ongoing national audit.