VA’s Backlog of Paper Claims Could Cause a Building Collapse

The problem is so bad in at least one facility employee safety is at stake.

Roger Baker, the Veterans Affairs Department chief information officer, promises that the department will have a paperless claims processing system installed in all its regional offices next year, none too soon for the Veterans Benefits Administration employees in North Carolina whose safety is threatened by mountains of paper files.

The VA Inspector General reported Thursday that the VBA office in Winston-Salem has so many backlogged claims that employees have stacked 37,000 paper files on top of file cabinets in mounds two feet high. Files also were stored on the floor and stacked in boxes along the walls, the IG said.

These foothills of files have “the potential to compromise the structural integrity of the sixth floor of the facility. We noticed floors bowing under the excess weight to the extent that the tops of file cabinets were noticeably unlevel throughout the storage area,” the IG said.

What’s more, onsite safety managers reported “concerns with boxes of files blocking exits, files stacked too close to overhead sprinklers, and files falling from the tops of file cabinets onto employees. In 2011, one employee experienced a minor shoulder injury when claims folders fell on him from the top of a filing cabinet.”

That’s a serious records management problem.