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Matt Jacob 202.408.5565
CREW Seeks Relief for VA's Destruction of PTSD Documents
WASHINGTON - February 1 - Today, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) filed a brief seeking discovery after the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) admitted to destroying documents responsive to CREW's May 2008 Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request in CREW v. U.S. Dep't of Veterans Affairs (D.D.C.). This lawsuit stems from CREW's FOIA request for documents related to the VA's policy of under-diagnosing post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), after an email was revealed in which VA employee Norma Perez discussed this policy.
Since this issue first came to light, the VA has resisted providing any documents. Most recently the VA claimed it had produced everything it had despite the fact that it had not even turned over Norma Perez's email or - despite public outcry and congressional hearings on the matter - any other records referring to the email. As a result, CREW argued the VA's search clearly had been inadequate and, amazingly, the agency said that it couldn't locate the email because it was destroyed in 2008, months after CREW filed both its FOIA request and this lawsuit. In fact, all the VA's backup tapes were destroyed, including the one containing the Perez email. The VA says it cannot produce any emails predating December 9, 2008.
Based on the destruction of the records, CREW has asked the Court to let us depose VA employees who may have known exactly what the VA was doing about PTSD and the extent to which the agency refused to provide proper medical care for veterans with PTSD.
Anne Weismann, CREW's chief counsel, stated, "It is incredible that with all of the public outrage and concern over this issue, the VA took no steps to preserve important records. This smacks of a cover-up to avoid liability for a disgraceful policy that deprived our nation's veterans of appropriate health care." Weismann continued, "The VA is not above the law; like all other agencies, it cannot simply destroy documents that have been requested under the FOIA just because those documents may cast the agency in a bad light."