VA Accused of Destroying Documents Sought by Freedom of Information Request

Sunday, February 28, 2010

After learning that the Department of Veterans Affairs was under-diagnosing cases of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) among soldiers, the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) sought documents from the agency to learn more. But instead of complying with CREW’s May 2008 Freedom of Information Act request, VA officials destroyed relevant emails and records, leading to a lawsuit by the non-governmental organization.

CREW first heard of the under-diagnosing of PTSD through reports of an email by VA employee Norma Perez discussing the policy. When the agency did not produce the email and other documents, while claiming it had handed over everything, CREW realized something was wrong. Then, VA officials admitted to destroying in December 2008 many emails and backup tapes, including the Perez email.
“We don’t think we have all the records, and now we know that some of the key records were destroyed,” Anne Weismann, CREW’s chief counsel, told Truthout. “I can’t really speak definitively on the scope of the problem because we don’t have all the records yet. Most critically we’re missing some key documents surrounding this one email, which we have not because the VA gave it to us but because someone in the organization bravely decided to leak it.”
-Noel Brinkerhoff
CREW v. Department of Veterans Affairs (U.S. District Court, District of Columbia) (pdf)


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