Document shredding is a systemic problem at regional offices of the Department of Veterans Affairs, according to a watchdog report.

The VA inspector general found that staffers at a majority of regional offices that investigators visited last year improperly sent documents related to veterans’ claims to the shredder, a practice that the watchdog said is a “systemic issue” fueled by VA policy.

The report issued Thursday said that investigators conducted “unannounced inspections” at 10 regional offices after it was discovered last February that staffers at the VA’s Los Angeles office sent mail related to veterans’ claims to the shredder.

At six of the 10 regional offices, staffers improperly sent documents to the shredder without first putting the information in veterans’ claims folders. Sixty-nine of the 155 claims-related documents, or 45 percent, reviewed by investigators were incorrectly sent to the shredder. Two of the documents affected veterans’ benefits, and nine had the potential to do so. While the rest did not affect benefits, they were still required to be included in veterans’ claims folders before being destroyed.

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