From time to time here at the Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas we get asked, “What’s the big deal? Why do public records matter so much and how do they affect me?” Well, of course there are numerous reasons but I’ll cite just one example – compliments of a recent Houston Chronicle/Hearst newspaper investigation. It involves an honorable government program aimed at helping America’s disabled military veterans. I provides benefits for heroes that went off to war and returned home unable to take care of themselves, or their finances, only to fall victim to theft, fraud and hollow program reform promises by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
According to the newspapers findings, “The government has never adequately tracked fiduciaries’ thefts from disabled veterans. The inspector general’s office says it conducted 315 fiduciary fraud investigations from October 1998 to March 2010, resulting in 132 arrests for thefts amounting to $7.4 million. But a Chronicle analysis of court records and documents obtained though the Freedom of Information Act show the thieves took more $14.7 million since 1998 – nearly twice the amounts reported to Congress.”
You see, without access to public records as a result of the Freedom of Information Act signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson, July 4, 1966, abuses like this could go unreported even longer.