Audit: VA employee traveled instead of processing benefit claims - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Audit: VA employee traveled instead of processing benefit claims

NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) -

Eight months after the Channel 4 I-Team exposed a massive backlog in benefit claims at the Veterans Administration in Nashville, a scathing audit reports a worker assigned to processing claims was downloading software for sexting and was traveling out of state instead of working on the cases.

The audit from the Office of Inspector General reports that an unnamed employee was assigned to the Nashville office but was taking trips several times a month to Washington, DC, at one point traveling to Florida, and his absence "resulted in an undetermined number of veterans claims not being processed."

Veterans and their families read the audit and said they are sickened by investigators' findings.

"How did he get away with this for so long?" asked Judy Moore, whose husband waited for years to hear about his claim of exposure to Agent Orange in Vietnam.

Only after the Channel 4 I-Team started investigating did Moore finally hear from the VA.

"Who was supposed to be watching him [the employee]?" Moore asked.

The audit named two of the unnamed employee's supervisors, J. Allen Bozeman and Jonah Czerwinski, for failing to properly supervise, resulting in the employee's unauthorized travel, misuse of a VA credit card and misuse of $31,000 of travel funds.

When reached by phone, Bozeman said he had no interest in talking to the Channel 4 I-Team about the audit, and Czerwinski did not return a call for comment.

The audit also says the employee downloaded software for sexting and used taxpayer dollars to entertain women and to purchase alcohol.

"He's living the high life, and these veterans, how many die, every year, waiting on these benefits? It's just absolutely ridiculous," Moore said.

The employee's name is redacted throughout the auditors' report.

"I think we have a right to know who he is," Moore said.

The Channel 4 I-Team repeatedly asked the VA and the OIG to identify the employee and to confirm if he is still employed by the VA.

A spokeswoman for the OIG said low-tiered employees with the government are due privacy protection.

VA spokeswoman Genevieve Billia sent the Channel 4 I-Team the following statement: "VA takes any allegation regarding misuse of departmental resources very seriously, and the department appreciates the Office of Inspector General's independent review. VA has reviewed the OIG's report, and will determine appropriate actions to take with respect to its recommendations."

The audit indicates the unnamed employee was doing some kind of work for the VA during the Washington trips, but he was still assigned to Nashville to work on those backlogged cases.

The audit also says government investigators opted not to take administrative action against the supervisors, as both have resigned.

The Channel 4 I-Team will continue to try and determine the identity of the unnamed employee.

Copyright 2014 WSMV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.

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