First, he was just the middleman. This time he was the victim.
Last June, the Veterans Administration mistakenly sent U.S. Army veteran James Graves information belonging to 12 other veterans. The data included income, social security numbers, and children’s names. Fortunately for them, Graves did not play finders keepers and ensured the records returned to their rightful owners.
That data breach happened while Graves was awaiting a decision on his appeal for vocational retraining. He kept waiting, and after the 90 day response period expired last spring, he started calling the VA.
“They told me, ‘well your records are being scanned, that’s why it’s late, it’s delayed’ so I kept calling back once every month.”
Graves must have foreseen a problem with the appeal process. When he first submitted his appeal paperwork in February 2017, he had the local VA benefits office stamp an extra copy “received” as proof that he gave them the necessary documents.
Last week, after having waited more than a year for a decision, Graves says his fears were confirmed.
“(They told me) they cannot find my stuff. They also said, ‘do you have anything saying that you did the appeal?’ And thank God, I had the stamped letter.”
James Graves appealed for vocational retraining because his hip, leg and knee problems are making it harder for him to teach middle school.
He says the data breach last year, and now the loss of his records this year, shows the VA needs to make changes in both policy and personnel.
“All you’re doing is hurting the veteran, you’re hurting the veteran’s family.”
10 On Your Side contacted the VA headquarters on behalf of Graves, to see how they lost his records and when they can resolve his case.