JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Leslie Eglinger, 68, is a Navy veteran, who helps other veterans navigate U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Now, he finds himself in the maze of the system.
"I'm trying to find out when the money will be put back in my account," he said. "I think it is a breach, nationwide."
The issue has to do with the VA's eBenefits where some of the veterans' information has reportedly been compromised.
In January, Eglinger notified the VA Benefits office that his wife of 38 years passed away and to have her name removed from his benefits. But he said he did it by mail.
"I knew at the end of March I would see a reduction in my benefits for that," he said.
Then on March 22, two months later, Eglinger said he received a troubling call from the VA.
"They called me and said, 'I see you did this, did you put a change in for your deposit?' he said. "I said no!"
His monthly check of $3,000 was apparently redirected to another account. Then, he discovered that he may not be the only veteran affected.
On Your Side received a copy of a notice that was sent to veterans about a possible eBenefits security breach. It warned veterans to confirm their deposit information.
One veteran even mentioned in the notice that his VA check was deposited somewhere in San Diego.
"Unfortunately it has happened," said Andy Marshall.
Marshall is Adjutant Department of Florida Disabled American Veterans and the National 3rd Junior Vice Commander. It was Marshall who issued the notice to all veterans.
Eglinger once again reached out for the status of his benefits, by phone and in the presence of On Your Side.
"You show in there the phone conversation I had with your fraud department from March 22 correct," he told the service agent.
He wanted to know when it will be resolved, and when will he be able to get his check.
Eglinger was told he has to wait until the investigation into is benefits is completed.
"I've been told to wait four to six weeks," he said.
We reached out to the VAB office in St. Petersburg and was told due to privacy restrictions, they cannot discuss the specifics of Mr. Eglinger's case without his written consent.
The VAB also provided this fact sheet on the issue:
Q: What processes are currently in place to prevent fraud or theft of VA benefits?
A: Veterans are the targets of many of the same types of fraud as the rest of society, including mail, telephone and online fraud. VA takes fraud allegations and the security of Veterans’ information seriously. When a fraud case is reported or suspected, VA investigates the incident and determines what actions are needed to protect the Veterans’ benefits, report those responsible for the alleged fraud and make the Veteran whole quickly.
A specialized VBA Incident Team has been created at the Salt Lake Regional Office as a quick reaction force. They have been established to complete all potential payment related fraud incidents (to include eBenefits) for VBA nationwide. The Incident Team’s actions include research, reissuance of payments, and final contact with the Veteran. In addition, VA has previously blocked known fraudulent accounts, implemented new fraud alert protocols for VA Regional Offices and National Call Centers, and added a Fraud Prevention Contractor to assist in identifying fraudulent activities and patterns before they occurs.
Q: How are veterans alerted if there is reason to believe their accounts or funds are in jeopardy?
A: The VBA Incident Team in Salt Lake City would contact a Veteran if it determines there has been fraudulent activity on the Veteran’s account. Safeguarding personally identifiable information (PII) is a Veteran’s best defense against being the victim of eBenefits and other fraud. Veterans should never disclose their PII to an unknown third party and should regularly change their eBenefits and other account passwords. Veterans who suspect they have been the victim of fraud should call VA at 1-800-827-1000 as quickly as possible. They can also contact VA’s Office of the Inspector General in any of the following ways:
E-Mail: email@example.com or 1 (800) 488-8244
[9:00am–4:00pm Eastern Time Monday–Friday excluding Federal holidays]
Note: Individuals calling from Puerto Rico may encounter difficulties when calling the Hotline 1-800 number. Connection problems may be alleviated by using a landline instead of a cell phone.
FAX: (202) 495-5861
VA Inspector General Hotline
810 Vermont Ave., NW
WASHINGTON, DC 20420
Q: How long on average do these investigations take?
A: Salt Lake City VBA Incident team has a 30-day goal from when it’s received to resolution.
Q: How many fraud investigations are currently taking place? How many fraud investigations typically happen each year?
A: There have been 2293 accounts compromised since August of 2015. To put things in perspective, there are currently 7,110,975 active eBenefit accounts. This represents a fraud rate of 0.03224%, which is well below the private industry standard.