Veterans’ files removed from center have been returned

2014-04-17T12:10:00Z 2014-07-01T16:28:03Z Veterans’ files removed from center have been returnedBy PERRY BACKUS Ravalli Republic The Billings Gazette
April 17, 2014 12:10 pm  • 

HAMILTON — About 200 veterans’ files removed by an employee of the Valley Veterans Service Center just before his arrest for allegedly making threats against the president were returned this week.

Dan Rachell, 43, of Darby, was arrested by Secret Service in the first week of April on the federal charges.

Before his arrest, the Gulf War veteran removed the files from the office, saying he had been advised to do so by the Veterans Administration to protect veterans’ privacy.

As part of his job, Rachell had power of attorney for some of the veterans he served.

Rachell has since officially resigned his post at the center, but was unable to return the files to the center before his arrest and incarceration.

The files contained a variety of personal information, including medical records. They are a necessary component for filing for benefits.

Valley Veterans Service Center board chair Bill Jette said the files were returned Monday by a law enforcement officer.

“He didn’t tell us how he was able to retrieve them, but that wasn’t important,” Jette said. “My concern has always been to protect the veterans’ privacy.”

All but five of the files taken from the office were returned.

The center is working to notify veterans as soon as possible about the return of the files.

“We are going through them now and doing an inventory to see if anything is missing,” Jette said.

Rachell was arrested after a fellow veteran voiced concerns that Rachell’s post-traumatic stress disorder appeared to be worsening and that he had begun a “downward spiral” that could lead to an attempt on the president’s life.

According to court papers, Rachell made specific threats against President Barack Obama and the president’s family.

The nonprofit veterans center closed its doors for about two weeks in March after the Secret Service investigation began.

The center is the only local-tax-supported rural veterans center in the state. Voters overwhelmingly passed a $70,000 mill levy in 2010. The money pays about 70 percent of the center’s expenses.

Over the past three years, the center has helped local veterans receive more than $2.2 million in benefits. Last year, it served more than 2,200 veterans.

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