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'Hearing' on VA shredding

The chairman of the committee overseeing the Department of Veterans Affairs was so angry about a VA shredding scandal that he said he would hold a formal hearing in Washington on the mess.

Never mind.

Without any explanation, staffers on Rep. Bob Filner's House Committee on Veterans Affairs said Friday that the committee will instead hold a two-hour "roundtable" discussion on VA shredding Wednesday at 10 a.m.

No sworn witnesses. No guarantee that anyone of importance at the VA will attend.

Filner, D-Calif., did not return a call for comment about his reversal. Last month, Filner quickly returned a call to the St. Petersburg Times to talk about the hearing he pledged to hold.

"These guys remind me of the Keystone Kops," Filner told the Times for an Oct. 25 story. "This completely shatters confidence in the whole VA system. These documents are matters of life and death for some of these veterans."

The VA continues to investigate improper shredding at its 57 regional benefits offices. The VA discovered that about 500 documents crucial in deciding veterans' claims had improperly been set aside for shredding in two-thirds of those offices earlier this year, including 13 at the VA's busiest benefits office at Bay Pines in St. Petersburg.

Filner's committee has invited representatives of major veterans groups to the roundtable discussion, which is open to the public and will be held in Room 334 of the Cannon House Office Building at the Capitol. In addition, the committee has invited officials of the VA whom it refused to name.

Last month, Filner said he was going to order the testimony of VA leaders at the hearing, including VA Secretary James Peake.

By Friday, nobody invited by the committee had yet confirmed attendance.

William R. Levesque can be reached at levesque@sptimes.com or at (813) 269-5306.

'Hearing' on VA shredding 11/14/08 [Last modified: Friday, November 21, 2008 11:05pm]
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