June 10, 2013

Portman Pushes For Answers from the VA Regarding the Loss of Over Half a Million Veteran Records in the Cleveland Regional Office

"?this incident only further exacerbates the frustration many veterans feel?"

Washington, D.C. – Today, following recent reports that the Cleveland Regional Office of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has deleted almost half a million electronic records which contain active loans, grants, and applications, U.S. Senator Rob Portman (R-Ohio) sent a letter to VA Secretary Shinseki urging him to take swift action to protect our veterans and ensure that this incident never happens again.

In the letter, Portman expresses his frustration with the VA’s lack of transparency, stating, “While I understand the VA has taken steps to remedy the situation, the limited communication and delayed incident reporting are particularly concerning.”  He adds, “I understand the Department of Veterans Affairs is under much scrutiny due to the growing claims backlog, which now stands at 860,000. Due to that scrutiny, the 464,000 lost files should have garnered more transparency and communication.”

Portman presses the VA to resolve this issue quickly to better serve our veterans and servicemembers, stating “I trust the Department is committed to providing the best service to the men and women who have proudly served our nation, but this incident only further exacerbates the frustration many veterans feel…”

The full text of the letter is below.  Read a signed copy here.  
June 10, 2013

The Honorable Eric K. Shinseki
Secretary of Veterans Affairs
810 Vermont Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20420

Dear Secretary Shinseki,

My office has received news that the Cleveland Regional Office of the Department of Veterans Affairs has deleted almost half a million electronic records which contain active loans, grants as well as applications. While I understand the VA has taken steps to remedy the situation, the limited communication and delayed incident reporting are particularly concerning.

I understand the Department of Veterans Affairs is under much scrutiny due to the growing claims backlog, which now stands at 860,000. Due to that scrutiny, the 464,000 lost files should have garnered more transparency and communication.  Although I understand 70% of the top lenders may only see a 1-3 day impact, the Department of Veterans Affairs must take the necessary steps to ensure all our veterans’ and servicemembers’ loan and grant applications are processed without delay.

In order to ensure this incident does not happen again and prompt action is taken on behalf of our veterans and servicemembers, I would appreciate your insight on the following questions:

1. When did the Cleveland Regional Office notify the Department of the loss of electronic records?
2. When were the loan and grant applicants notified of the incident?
3. What steps have you taken to prevent this from happening again? Are backup systems in place? How often is data backup performed?
4. Although 70% may only see a 1-3 day impact, what impact do you estimate the remaining 30% will experience and what plans are in place to process them in a timely manner?  Please provide status on historical and current loan and grant processing times.
5. Are you prioritizing veterans and servicemembers who have applied for Specially Adapted Housing (SAH) grants?
6. Will this incident delay new loan and grant applications? How are you working with lenders and applicants to ensure documents are processed in a timely manner?
7. Do you expect any disruption to active loans and grants which were not subject to lost files?
8. How are you communicating your strategy to veterans and servicemembers to ensure they do not become victims of fraud due to this incident?

I trust the Department is committed to providing the best service to the men and women who have proudly served our nation, but this incident only further exacerbates the frustration many veterans feel from the claims processing process.  I appreciate your focus on this issue and offer my support in ensuring this issue is resolved quickly.

Thank you for your leadership and prompt attention to these matters. 

Sincerely,
Rob Portman