OIG substantiated that a Veteran Services Officer (VSO), accredited and employed by the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), Department of Massachusetts, manipulated or attempted to manipulate dates of claims at the Boston VA Regional Office (VARO).
OIG also found evidence indicating the VSO may have engaged in a similar manipulation scheme at the VARO in Togus, Maine. The VSO secretly date stamped multiple blank documents, providing the opportunity to cut, attach, and photocopy these dates onto claims documents for other claimants. Manipulation of dates of claims appeared to be a routine practice dating back to at least July 2013. OIG found about 25 benefits claims in the VSO’s workspace that had not been submitted to the VARO for processing; some of the claims dated back to October 2013.
OIG could not identify claims where the VSO may have altered the actual dates of claim because there is no audit trail that tracks claims submitted by individual VSOs. Untimely processing by the VSO impedes the VARO’s ability to initiate required development actions and results in veterans waiting longer for their claim to be processed. The VSO was able to manipulate dates of claims to cover up the untimely submission of claims because VARO management did not ensure only authorized staff accessed and used its date stamping equipment. Additionally, VARO management did not ensure the keys needed to unlock and operate date stamping machines were securely stored. Rather, keys were stored in unlocked desk drawers near the date stamping machines. Further, manipulation of dates of claims compromised the data integrity of claims processing timeliness and introduced delays in processing benefits claims. OIG recommended the Under Secretary for Benefits implement plans to ensure only authorized staff at the Boston VARO use date stamping equipment and that they receive refresher training on securing date stamping equipment.