Former claims agent facing charges allegedly took vets' records home


Former claims agent facing federal charges allegedly took vets' records home

HAMILTON, Mont. - The fallout from the veterans' claims agent accused of making threats against President Obama and his family continues.

The Valley Veterans Service Center said Daniel Rachell took veterans records home with him.

The center is working with the VA's general counsel in Washington, D.C., to retrieve those files, and have them returned to individual veterans. It has many veteran clients worried.

Since the investigation into Dan Rachell's tenure as a claims agent began in March, program coordinator Matt Getz has answered hundreds of calls from veterans, worried about their records and benefits.

Getz said Rachell, through power of attorney, took 300 to 400 claims of disability compensation, pension or health care benefits records home with him on the first day of an internal investigation.

"Most of those claims," said Getz, "possess confidential information like bank account routing numbers and Social Security numbers."

Getz said there is a loophole in the Veterans Administration legal code that was intended for attorneys practicing veterans' law, that Rachell exploited.

"We've been working with the VA's highest authorities in Washington, D.C., to revoke  his power of attorney status," said Getz, "and have those physically returned to each and every individual veteran."

Getz said he doesn't think there's a direct threat to veterans. But he said those files contain information that could be used for credit fraud or identity theft.

"It's not a secure situation," he said, "and personally, as a veteran, I understand the concerns."

Korean War veteran Richard Falk is concerned.

"I want my records out of there," said Falk.

Rachell is not only accused of making threats to the President, but of identifying a bridge in Hamilton where he could launch an attack on a presidential motorcade.

A court record said Rachell is reported to have said he had "enough ammunition to kill everyone in Hamilton."

Getz said the VA general counsel's office in D.C. conducts background checks on applicants for claims.

"Clearly," he said, "there is an issue that needs fixing in how they perform that background check."

"We want to make sure this never happens again," he said.

Photograph of Dan Rachell courtesy Ravalli Republic.

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