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Senator demands answers about 464,000 deleted VA grant, loan files

Jun. 10, 2013 - 06:00AM   |  
2012 Republican National Convention: Day 3
Sen. Rob Portman speaks at the Republican National Convention at the Tampa Bay Times Forum in August. The Ohio Republican is demanding answers from VA following revelations that nearly half a million electronic records were deleted from a VA computer system last month. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

Sen. Rob Portman is demanding answers from the Veterans Affairs Department following revelations that nearly half a million electronic records, including active loan files, were deleted from a VA computer system last month.

About 464,000 electronic documents and images — including active loan files, appraisal documents and grant documents for veterans and service members who qualify for the Specially Adapted Housing (SAH) grant — were deleted from a VA computer system as a result of human error, according to the VA. Federal Times first reported the incident June 6.

“I understand the Department of Veterans Affairs is under much scrutiny due to the growing claims backlog, which now stands at 860,000,” the Ohio Republican wrote in a letter to VA Secretary Eric Shinseki on Monday.“Due to that scrutiny, the 464,000 lost files should have garnered more transparency and communication.”

The incident occurred May 24 at an Austin, Texas, data facility when a database administrator mistakenly deleted the materials, which had been uploaded to the VA’s home loan programs online application since mid-March. [Editor’s note: Federal Times previously incorrectly reported the data loss occured at the Cleveland VA Regional Office, based on incorrect information provided by the VA public affairs office.]

In his letter, Portman asked Shinseki for more details about the incident, such as when the department was first notified of the data loss, whether the incident will delay loan and grant applications, and what steps VA has taken to prevent similar incidents from occuring.

VA said it has asked lenders, appraisers and staff appraisal reviewers to re-upload appraisals for pending closings, but it would not say how long that process will take or how the department is identifying which veterans and service members were affected by the incident.

In a statement last week to Federal Times, VA spokeswoman Jo Schuda said VA’s top lenders, which produce more than 70 percent of the department’s volume, “noted that the impact on closings, if any, was between one and three days.” VA has refused to provide further details on the impact of the data loss.

Portman asked what the impact on closings will be for the remaining 30 percent of VA’s volume.

“I trust the department is committed to providing the best service to the men and women who have proudly served our nation, but this incident only further exacerbates the frustration many veterans feel from the claims processing process,” Portman said.

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