The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) made a stunning admission at last week’s Congressional hearing about VA’s backlog inventory of 1.1 million claims.
For the first time, VA revealed more than one-in-four disability compensation claims processed by VA’s beleaguered Oakland office are riddled with errors. Almost all of VA mistakes are against Veterans, forcing them to appeal.
Paul Sullivan, managing director of public affairs & veterans outreach here at Bergmann & Moore, testified before the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee. Reporters from the Military Times, NextGov, and the Washington Post covered the hearing.
Sullivan told Congress that when VBA speeds up claim processing, VA makes mistakes. Then Veterans must appeal.
Sullivan remains especially concerned about the impact of delays on veterans with psychological conditions. Being forced to wait months or years for healthcare and disability benefits for posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), traumatic brain injuries (TBI), and military sexual trauma (MST) can often worsen a Veteran’s health.
VBA’s Director of Compensation Service Tom Murphy confirmed VBA leaders had met with Veterans advocates, including Sullivan, and were willing to grant attorneys and agents access to their clients’ computer and paper VA files.
Murphy also pledged to lawmakers that staff at Oakland’s VBA Regional Office would receive additional training in coming months to improve productivity and quality.
U.S. Rep. Silvestre Reyes (D-Texas), a member of the Committee, admonished VA during his opening remarks: “VA should remember that ‘VA’ should stand for ‘Veteran Advocate’ and not ‘Veteran Adversary.’”
Wednesday’s hearing was titled, “From the Inside Out: A Look at Claims Representatives’ Role in the Disability Claims Process.” Bergmann & Moore testified on behalf of the National Organization of Veterans’ Advocates.
The hearing was held as investigative journalist Aaron Glantz of the Bay Citizen reported on very serious problems our Veterans face at VBA’s Oakland Regional Office:
April 15: “Veterans’ Disability Claims Buried Under Paperwork: The average wait for a decision in the Bay Area is now 313 days.”
April 16: “VA Pledges to Overhaul Disability Claims System: Promise comes after The Bay Citizen reveals Bay Area veterans wait an average of 313 days.”
April 19: “Send Immediate Help’ to Oakland’s VA, Say Bay Area Reps: Letter to veterans secretary cites ‘extreme disappointment’ over decision not to overhaul troubled office”