An Independence man who served in the Navy fears the Veterans Administration has either shredded or lost documents that detail his disability benefit claims.

An Independence man who served in the Navy fears the Veterans Administration has either shredded or lost documents that detail his disability benefit claims.

The documents that Bill Wilcox claims the VA has mismanaged could be part of a widescale controversy that has placed the administration under fire.

Wilcox was injured in boot camp during a close order drill. A cadet trampled on his left foot during a turn.

His knee suffered an injury, and he had knee surgery. At that time, he was considering the Navy as a career.

But the operation destroyed the left knee. He claims the doctor botched the surgery.

A Navy official had Wilcox sign documents and then told him he was being medically discharged. The signed papers gave Wilcox a claim for compensation and pension that was to be filed with the VA.

The official told Wilcox not to worry, that the administration would file the claim automatically.

But Wilcox has never received veterans’ benefits. His claim is still being processed, though he fears his case may now have been accidentally shredded.

Wilcox has appealed for disability benefits from 1978 to 1992 and he’s been battling the administration since the early 1990s.

His case contains more than 800 pages that detail his medical history and correspondence.

Where are some of those pages, Wilcox questions.

“I have a half million dollar claim that’s out in limbo land and I don’t know if they shredded the documents or not,” he added.

The VA confessed last November that an audit by the administration’s inspector general found documents waiting to be shredded at various VA regional offices. These documents could have affected financial benefits awarded to veterans and survivors.

The mismanagement of documents could have happened from April 2007 to October 2008.

A nationwide review of the VA’s 57 regional offices has found that 41 had records in their shredder bins that shouldn’t have been there. In all, nearly 500 benefit claims records had been erroneously slated for destruction, including claims for compensation, notices of disagreement with a claim decision, and death certificates.

The VA immediately suspended all document shredding and conducted special training for all employees who process benefit applications.

U.S. Sen. Kit Bond, who has extensive dealings with veterans issues, told The Examiner he’s heard from “too many” veterans whose records have been lost or stolen at the VA.

“While this lost paperwork may just sound like an annoyance, it can cost a veteran thousands of dollars and hard-earned health care, retirement benefits or medals,” Bond said. “It’s past time for the VA records keeping system to catch up to the 21st century. Our veterans deserve nothing less.”

Bond’s spokeswoman Shana Marchio said the senator’s office has heard from hundreds of veterans who have encountered records problems.

Wilcox is working with Bond’s office about the problem.

The VA notes it is the most paper-intensive federal bureaucracy, sifting through 162-million pages of claims documents a year.

A VA spokesman could not be reached for comment.

Through VA history, confidential claims papers have been found in some odd places: above ceiling tiles, inside closets, in curbside trash at a VA lawyer’s home, and in one case at the bottom of an elevator shaft.

 Wilcox said his documents could be shredded because of an automated recording he heard when calling the administration’s help line about the status of his claim.

“Shredding? I was blown away when I heard this recording.”

But Wilcox doesn’t feel that his country has abandoned him because of the documents. “I feel cheated because of the bureaucracy,” he said.