ATLANTA — Thousands of pieces of mail were moved to a basement at the Atlanta Veterans Affairs Medical Center and left there for months.
A joint Atlanta Journal-Constitution/Channel 2 Action News investigation uncovered the problem.
The photos of the mail were first reported by our partners at the AJC.
VA employees who saw the 10 pallets of mail say there were postmarks dating back at least 10 months and mail stacked 10 feet into the air.
Based on the codes employees saw, that mail contains things critical to veteran care, including medical records waiting to be scanned into the system.
“I was walking in the basement and saw all this mail,” a VA employee told Channel 2 investigative reporter Justin Gray.
That whistleblower is also a disabled veteran.
She says she saw the mail in the basement warehouse at the logistics department of the Atlanta VA Medical Center.
“This was pallets upon pallets, just staged. Sitting in the basement. Just sitting there. Nobody touched it,” said the VA employee.
The Atlanta VA confirms to us, it happened and says it has now moved six of the 10 pallets for processing.
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The VA says the mail is predominantly documentation of services provided by community partners, which is also submitted electronically for processing.
In July, Gray reported on veterans not being able to get through on the phone to the Atlanta VA because of glitches with a new phone system.
Fulton County Marine Corps veteran Robert Mullins had that issue himself. Mullins says he’s disappointed, but not surprised, about all that unopened mail.
“We have a saying that says, delay, deny and hope that you die,” Mullins said.
The VA says mail processing responsibilities were recently shifted to local hospitals from a central facility, telling us in a statement:
“We are working diligently to process the four remaining pallets of mail as quickly as possible. We are also hiring additional staff to ensure the medical center’s mail room functions efficiently.”
But Pete Sepp from the National Taxpayers Union says this is more than just a case of a slow mailroom.
“These are not just pieces of mail with postage on them, these are peoples’ lives. Every piece of mail represents a person,” Sepp said.
And that VA employee who tipped us off to the mail has also been waiting for medical records from VA she first requested back in March 2020.
“It could be my own records there, and I work for the VA. This is very disappointing to me as a veteran, very disappointing. It tells me that from the director on down, that they don’t give a damn,” she said.
The Atlanta VA tells us nobody has been disciplined for this but tells us in a statement it is “reviewing our internal processes to prevent a similar situation in the future, we are also retraining current mailroom employees and hiring additional staff to ensure the medical center’s mail room functions efficiently.”
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