Destroyed Military Records and Lack of DoD-VA Computerized Records System Creates Challenges for Disabled Veterans.
The U.S. military has reportedly lost and destroyed countless military records since the Gulf War began in August 1990. This in turn has greatly complicated efforts by soldiers and Veterans to obtain disability benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).
A sweeping joint investigation by ProPublica and the Seattle Times last fall found that the U.S. military failed to create and maintain the types of field records that have documented American battles and troop activities since the Revolutionary War.
The compelling two-part report found that the record-keeping breakdown was “especially acute in the early years of the Iraq war, when insurgents deployed improvised bombs with devastating effects on U.S. soldiers.” Records were also lost or destroyed from Afghanistan, ProPublica reported, which cited previously undisclosed military documents.
Meanwhile despite promised reforms at the Department of Defense (DoD) and VA, including a single computer system for all claims, Veterans’ hopes for improvement were dashed on the rocks.
According to an investigation by News21, DoD and VA spent at least $1.3 billion during the last four years “trying unsuccessfully to develop a single electronic health-records system between the two departments, leaving veterans’ disability claims piling up in paper files.” A single DoD-VA lifetime electronic medical record is vital so that records are not lost and destroyed.
Of course accurate and complete records are vitally important for Veterans to win VA disability claims, as they show evidence of an injury, illness, deployment to a war zone, sexual assault, or toxic exposure. Specifically for the current wars in Southwest Asia, hundreds of thousands of Veterans have reported respiratory problems and other health effects after exposure to toxic fumes from huge burn pits that were commonly used to dispose of garbage in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other nations in the region.
Most disconcerting are these facts: more than 830,000 recent war veterans have filed claims against VA. Of those, more than 170,000 claims from veterans of Operation Iraqi Freedom / Operation Enduring Freedom / Operation New Day are still waiting processed at VA.
Veterans, Congress, and the American public have a right to know when DoD and VA will stop issuing excuses and start performing.