In another round of embarrassment for the VA, two clerks at the National Personnel Record Center in Missouri intentionally destroyed or misfiled over 1,800 US veterans’ personnel records.
According to a report on Stars & Stripes news, the two clerks were student employees, however one of the perpetrators, Lonnie Halkmon, is 28 and has worked at the center since 2005. Stanley Engram, 21, also plead guilty to a misdemeanor charge of destruction of government records, and now faces probation to six months in prison under federal sentencing guidelines. Halkmon was already sentenced to two years of probation and 40 hours of community service.
The punishment is a relative slap on the wrist for committing an act that could potentially affect thousands of veterans. From Dec. 7, 2011 to March 28, 2012, over 1,200 files were assigned to Halkmon, and 850 were reported missing. Clearly, this was not a case of mere negligence. What’s more, Halkmon was allowed to resign rather than be terminated because he had worked at the center for almost 10 years, but then claimed he had not received proper training.
What could possibly be the motive behind this case? According to state court files, some employees seeking to earn an incentive bonus were intentionally misfiling, or “stashing,” records to finish more quickly. But even an “incentive bonus” doesn’t seem to explain the lengths with which Engram went to dispose of records.
Engram's guilty plea says that 241 military records were found in the woods near the center on July 3, 2012, with 300 names and Social Security numbers visible on the documents. The records were traced to Engram, who admitted disposing of the records found in the woods, “abandoning” files in the center and throwing them away at home.
In all, Engram admitted to destroying or purposely misfiling more than 1,000 records.
This is quite simply an outrage. Veterans and their families often have to jump through many hoops to get their hands on personnel records, which are the key to many benefits. A case such as this, which shows a complete lack of respect toward veterans, does not help the situation. It is an embarrassment and a shame that thousands of veterans could potentially miss-out or have their life enhancing benefits delayed.
For more on this story, check out the Stars & Stripes Report here: http://www.stripes.com/news/veterans/more-than-1-800-vets-records-intentionally-destroyed-or-misfiled-by-2-clerks-1.264849#.Uu4-QR3hW2k.email