How important are data quality suppression services to your mail operation and business? The US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) might say "extremely important" after a recent mail piece had unintended consequences.

In June 2014, the VA identified 70,000 veterans who had not received medical treatment that they had requested. To correct this mistake, the VA sent a letter to each of these veterans inviting them to schedule an appointment with a local VA hospital. Unfortunately, the address list in the mailing contained one veteran who had died while waiting for treatment. The veteran's widow received this appointment letter 22 months after her husband's death.

Now the VA has a very upset family, a publicity nightmare, and a potential lawsuit to deal with. The saying, "The road to Hell is paved with good intentions" comes to mind.

This unfortunate situation could have been avoided if the VA submitted their mailing list to a deceased suppression service and removed names identified as deceased prior to the mailing.

There are many suppression services available that utilize data sets to help ensure that your message and postage is not wasted. More importantly, employing these services on a regular basis ensures that your message does not create a liability or ill will towards your company.
Some of the more common suppression services are listed below:
· Deceased Master File Suppression
· Mail Preference Service
· Prison Suppression
· Business/Shopping Center Addresses
· College Addresses
· Pander Files
· Military ZIP Codes
· Nursing Homes
· Relative Input of Another's Death
· Retirement Homes
· Trailer Parks
· House Holding

These suppression services are easily accessed through some mailing software. If your software does not offer this integrated service, the mail list can be sent out to a data service company for processing.

Prior to each mailing, a data quality best practice should include standardizing the address (CASS), validating the address (DPV), updating the address (NCOALink), duplicate removal, and suppressing undesirable address records.

Had the VA followed these best practices, they would have saved on postage, legal costs, and a whole lot of time. More importantly, they would not have created more grief for a veteran's family.