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Whistleblowers shed light on troubling issue plaguing veterans

The United States and California have special protections for whistleblowers for a variety of reasons. One of those reasons is that the information whistleblowers provide sometimes sheds light on ways that companies or organizations are hurting people or doing things that shouldn't be done. A recent case in California shows how important it is for whistleblowers to step forward when they have information.

When a veteran wants benefits from the VA, they sometimes send in an informal claim. By law, a response has to be sent from the VA with an application. Sadly, thousands of veterans never got the response they should have received by law.

According to five whistleblowers, more than 13,000 informal claims filed with the VA office in Oakland have been sitting in a filing cabinet. Those claims were filed between 1996 and 2009, but were kept in the cabinet until 2012.

Two years ago, a team was assigned to process all those claims in the filing cabinet. Shockingly, when a worker started to go through the claims, she found that half of the veterans were deceased. She said they died waiting on an initial response from the VA. Some of the letters, she says, were from veterans and widows who were pleading for help.

When that woman voiced her concerns, she was removed from the project. After that, she and another worker, a man who is a former VA employee, found a cart with more claims. They pulled 15 random files. Of those, eight were due money.

The VA hasn't denied the assertions of the woman, man and other whistleblowers. The VA acknowledges the issue but claims they can't speak of how many veterans were actually affected because thousands of records are missing.

The woman who was removed from the project after voicing concerns might have been able to seek protection under the whistleblower protections. Anyone who has suffered consequences because of whistleblowing has the right to do the same.

Source: CBS SF Bay Area, "Oakland Whistleblowers Say Veterans Being Denied Benefits" Feb. 25, 2015

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