Nod’s article on Shreddergate One, should surely be an eye opener, noting that Shreddergate ONE made the Veterans Benefit Manual.
According to this article with the Federal Register, we Vets do not have 365 more sunsets left, as the one year period to declare shredded evidence would expire October 2012. Dont take chances and get your request for special handling in pronto as it may be too late after Oct. 1. 2012.
However, how would a Vet know if his Regional Office Shredded his evidence? The short answer is we probably would not know. I will suggest these clues:
1. Dont worry if you were not at one of the 41 Regional Offices caught shredding..38CFR 3.218 did not exclude any Regional Offices, in part because the 41 were the only ones to get caught, and shredding could well have happened in the other 16 Regional Offices as well. Also, your evidence could have been “shipped” to one of those offending RO’s as the VA often “farms out” their claims to other RO’s. You may or may not know if your claim was “farmed out” to an offending RO or not.
2. Look carefully at your “reasons and bases” for denial. Does your R&B say that there is “no evidence” to support your claim, especially when you know that you did see the doc for that malady during your military service? Also study carefully the “evidence” section in your decision, as that may even help document that you had evidence shredded.
3. Order a copy of your C file. Compare it to what you remember, and the evidence you have. If there is a discrepency, you, too, are likely a victim. You could also try asking the VA for a copy of a specific evidence document you think may be missing.
4. Dont count on your VSO to do this for you. Your VSO may well be too new for shreddergate 1, and may not even know about it. Even if your VSO has been around for decades, many of them are “still in denial”, that the VA could possibly do such a horrible thing to Vets as destroy their evidence.
5. Give yourself the benefit of the doubt. If there is an approximate balance of evidence that your RO shredded evidence and that they didn’t, then give the BOD to the Veteran and go through the “shredded evidence” procedure. You are probably right. There is no evidence that the VA sent out letters to the shreddergate victims to inform them of their rights. Instead, the VA wants us to be a detective and solve the mystery as to why we were denied when we have a valid nexus, or even a good running Accord.
Since it would appear that the VA was ineffective at eliminating “shreddergate One”, we can expect “Shreddergate Part 2” to surface at any time noting the VAOIG has apparently not done a followup shredder bin inspection since the “October (2008) incident”. I am not buying the concept that the Regional Office habit of shredding Veterans evidence (which appears to have gone on for decades) was miraculously cured overnight, and that no follow up inspections are necessary.