The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has been systematically shredding documents related to veterans' claims -- possibly affecting benefits for veterans, according to an investigation by the inspector general. 

Investigators with the Department of Veterans Affairs audited 10 vererans benefits offices around the country and found that staff were destroying mail related to claims, according to a report by Military.com, citing an OIG report released on Thursday. 

The surprise audit, which was conducted at the offices on July 20, 2015, came after reports of such document shredding in Los Angeles, the website reported.

Investigators reportedly sifted through some 438,000 documents awaiting destruction at the regional offices. Of 155 claims-related documents, 69 were found to have been incorrectly placed in shred bins at six of the regional offices, according to Military.com.

Those offices were in Atlanta, Chicago, Houston, New Orleans, Philadelphia and Reno, Nev. At least two of the 69 documents headed to the shredder directly affected benefits and nine had the potential to, according to the website. 

The OIG report concluded that, "The potential effect should not be minimized."

"Considering that there are 56 [VA regional offices], and if weekly shredding is conducted, it is highly likely that claims-related documents at other VAROs are being improperly scheduled for destruction that could result in loss of claims and evidence, incorrect decisions and delays in claims processing," the report said. 

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