Hoyer Sends Letter to Acting VA Secretary Regarding Inappropriate Handling of Records at Baltimore Regional Office

For Immediate Release:

July 14, 2014

Contact:

Mariel Saez, 202-225-3130

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Democratic Whip Steny H. Hoyer (MD) sent a letter to U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Acting Secretary Sloan Gibson today regarding reports from the VA Office of the Inspector General of inappropriate handling of records at the VA’s Baltimore Regional Office. In his letter, Whip Hoyer requests a briefing for the entire Maryland House delegation on what steps the VA is taking to ensure that similar incidents do not happen in the future. 

“While I believe it is positive that the Acting Director reported this incident to the Inspector General, I am concerned that the current culture in the Baltimore office may have contributed to this occurring in the first place,” Whip Hoyer wrote.  “As Congress continues to address systemic problems within the VA, in order to ensure that no one who served our nation honorably in uniform is treated dishonorably or dishonestly by those charged with their care, I ask that you, Undersecretary Hickey, and Acting Director Antoine Waller brief the entire Maryland House delegation on what steps the VA is taking to ensure that similar incidents do not happen in the future.”

The text of the letter is as follows:

The Honorable Sloan Gibson
Acting Secretary
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
810 Vermont Avenue NW
Washington, D.C. 20420

Dear Acting Secretary Gibson:

            I am greatly alarmed and concerned by reports from the VA Office of the Inspector General that an employee at the VA’s Baltimore Regional Office “inappropriately stored 8,000 documents and 80 claims folders in his office for an extensive period of time.”  In addition, 1,500 documents were found to be inappropriately stored at the Baltimore office by seven other employees, including unprocessed mail and completed ratings decisions.  

On April 24, 2013, along with the rest of the Maryland House delegation, I met with then-Secretary Eric Shinseki, Undersecretary for Benefits Allison Hickey, and former Director of the Baltimore Regional Office Michael Scheibel to discuss the claims backlog and the state of affairs at the Baltimore office.  However, it is clear that the Baltimore office has not made enough progress since that meeting over a year ago.  The 450,000 veterans in Maryland deserve better. 

While I believe it is positive that the Acting Director reported this incident to the Inspector General, I am concerned that the current culture in the Baltimore office may have contributed to this occurring in the first place.  As Congress continues to address systemic problems within the VA, in order to ensure that no one who served our nation honorably in uniform is treated dishonorably or dishonestly by those charged with their care, I ask that you, Undersecretary Hickey, and Acting Director Antoine Waller brief the entire Maryland House delegation on what steps the VA is taking to ensure that similar incidents do not happen in the future. 

Congress has an obligation to stand up for those brave men and woman who have fought for our country and to make certain that they receive the care and benefits they earned in a timely fashion.  It also has a duty to hold accountable any personnel who are failing in their mission to uphold the trust our nation’s veterans have placed in them. 

My staff will be reaching out to schedule this meeting soon.  With regards, I am

Sincerely yours,

STENY H. HOYER

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