GAO and VAOIG Agree VBA Still Failing Veterans
In a scathing if not surprising new report to Congress, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) slams the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) – again – for handling the increasing workload of Veterans’ disability claims in an untimely manner.
In a new audit, Veterans’ Disability Benefits: Timely Processing Remains a Daunting Challenge, the GAO notes that VBA’s paper-based claims processing system involves “multiple hand-offs, which can lead to misplaced and lost documents and can cause unnecessary time delays.”
The official report concludes in all-too familiar fashion that waiting times have increased for veterans in part because VBA regional offices have shifted resources away from appeals and toward claims in recent years. The GAO confirms that VBA processes new and easy claims first, which often leaves older, complicated claims gathering dust.
In a Reuters story on the audit, the Government’s watchdog agency sounds the alarm over disability benefit delays for veterans. The GAO’s Daniel Bertoni says that while the VBA has made some significant inroads, “there’s a lot of uncertainty about whether these initiatives will ultimately be successful.”
VBA’s goal is to have all veteran disability claims processed in 125 days, with an error rate of 2 percent. But claims currently average 272 days and have an unacceptable 13.7 percent error rate. And things are evidently getting worse.
An inspection of VBA’s Detroit, Michigan Regional Office (RO) by VA’s Office of the Inspector General (VAOIG) shockingly reveals the RO staff did not accurately process 31 (52 percent) of 60 disability claims reviewed. This means that after four years of VAOIG audits, VBA still fails veterans with an unacceptably high error rate. Veterans in Detroit might be better off flipping a coin to see if their disability claims are processed properly.
“We’re pleased that GAO and VAOIG are auditing VBA regional offices, yet we’re troubled by their findings and by these ongoing challenges for our Veterans,” says attorney Glenn Bergmann, a partner at Bergmann & Moore.