Frustrated VA claimants, requests lost in 18,000 envelope backlog

The VA

Frustrated VA claimants, requests lost in 18,000 envelope backlog

According to, weeks after the disclosure that 68 bins of old mail from veterans had been found at the Philadelphia office, it has become evident that the VA’s problems surrounding document management are worse than imagined.

At least 84 boxes of mail have been returned to the Philadelphia VA when they didn’t reach their intended recipients. The center’s director estimated that the facility’s return-mail backlog has been sitting around since March and is at least 18,000 envelopes deep.

Around the region, veterans and their relatives feel there may now be an explanation about why their inquiries and VA claims were rarely addressed or even answered.

Mounting expenses due to Novella Pearson’s dementia led her son Mike Pearson to apply for her benefits in September 2012. He said he had no success, despite repeatedly sending documents to the Veterans Affairs Regional Office in Germantown. He finally wrote to Senator Bob Casey. The VA’s response last month was to ask him for documents he said he had already sent.

“It highlighted what I had assumed,” he said. “That there wasn’t a malicious plot, just incompetency and disregard.”

“There’s no doubt in my mind her case has fallen into a black hole,” Pearson said. “And the shame of it is, my father’s paperwork didn’t fall into a black hole when he was called to service.” reported that concerns over document and mail management have cropped up at regional benefits offices across the country. In response, the VA ordered an audit of the mail in every office.

A team from the VA Office of Inspector General is investigating accusations that mail has been shredded or “hidden” at the Philadelphia VA. There are also allegations that that dates on claims have been changed to make the backlog appear smaller. A spokeswoman declined to provide an update on their progress but acknowledged they have been there for three weeks.

In 2012, Ryan Cease, 31, a whistle-blower who worked at the facility for about five years, alerted officials about mail near his desk that was marked for shredding. He searched through the documents and believed the office could identify some of the veterans who sent them. But the employees marking them for shredding weren’t trying, he said.

“They weren’t in front of a computer,” he said. “They were just putting it in boxes.”

VA officials repeated last week that no mail had been shredded, but that a team of investigators did find returned mail yet to be processed. A sorter at the facility’s Pension Management Center said the 84 boxes he counted appeared to be mostly notices that did not affect a claim.

According to, Diana Rubens, the facility’s recently appointed director, said that the problems around the management of the tens of thousands of correspondence that floods the facility monthly wasn’t anything new. In an interview, Rubens spoke about improvements in recent years. She stated that two months ago the facility began to immediately scan mail as it arrived so it is quickly logged into the system.

See the video below for another example of delayed response from the VA:

YouTube video


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