VA launches two inquiries into 10 pallets of unopened mail

VA employees found pallets of unopened mail in a warehouse basement in September. Two VA agencies have launched investigations into how the mail got there and why it was not properly handled.

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VA employees found pallets of unopened mail in a warehouse basement in September. Two VA agencies have launched investigations into how the mail got there and why it was not properly handled.

The Atlanta Veterans Affairs Health Care System hospital in Decatur didn’t launch an investigation into why 10 pallets of months-old, unopened mail was left stacked up in a warehouse earlier this month, but two other VA authorities have stepped in to do so.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported the unopened mail Sept. 17 after a VA employee sent the newspaper photographs of it. At the time, the Atlanta VA blamed the misplaced mail on departmental restructuring and backlogs caused by the coronavirus. It said there would be no investigation. The mail was addressed to a department that handles veterans’ medical records and payments to doctors who treat veterans outside of the VA system.

The Atlanta VA said Tuesday the mail contained about $200,000 in checks.

Dr. David Walker, the newly appointed director of VA medical care for nearly all of Georgia and two other states, launched an investigation last week into what happened, a spokeswoman from his office told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. It will be carried out by employees from outside the Atlanta VA.

And officials from VA’s Office of the Inspector General showed up at the hospital last Friday, according to three VA employees with knowledge of the visit. They are not authorized to speak to the media and asked not to be named.

A spokesman from the inspector general’s office would not confirm that.

Officials from the Atlanta VA did not respond to requests for comments.

On Sept. 16, the Atlanta VA said it was processing the pallets of mail, which had been put there by mailroom and warehouse staff, and that it was hiring more employees to help.

In a new development, internal VA emails obtained by the AJC show this was not the first time mail has been mishandled.

Emails from early November 2019, which included hospital director Ann Brown, show a discussion among middle managers about 26 bags of mail containing an estimated 2,000 to 3,000 envelopes, including medical records. The bags were left in the wrong department. Staff members were worried that leaving the records unguarded violated the privacy of veterans. They also expressed concern that delays in processing the mail that contained medical records could lead to problems.