The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Matt Jacob 202.408.5565

CREW Seeks Relief for VA's Destruction of PTSD Documents


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."

Click here to read CREW's brief.

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to promoting ethics and accountability in government and public life by targeting government officials -- regardless of party affiliation -- who sacrifice the common good to special interests. CREW advances its mission using a combination of research, litigation and media outreach.