Congress steps in to investigate VA claims crisis

Hearing scheduled for Sept. 21

In May, a 93-year-old World War II veteran in a wheelchair attended a congressionally sponsored public meeting in the San Francisco Bay Area. Why? His disability claim was stuck gathering dust at VA for more than two years. VA kept asking for more documents.

In the same meeting, a 26-year old Air Force Veteran sexually assaulted while stationed in Germany shouted at VA officials for giving excuses. Her PTSD claim languished at VA for 2 years.

These veterans aren’t alone. VA’s claim inventory is nearly one million cases (1.1 million if you include appeals). And VA falls further and further behind. To make matters worse, after the claims are finally decided, VA makes errors at an astonishing and unacceptable rate.  VA’s national error rate stands at 30%. Yet many VA offices are far worse: 53.2% in San Diego, 56.7% in Houston, and 60% in Los Angeles.

That’s right: according to VA’s Office of the Inspector General, more than 6 out of 10 claims processed in Los Angeles contains serious mistakes. Because of VA’s errors, VA’s inventory is a two-pronged issue: first, the initial flood of claims, and second, the claims which are sent back (or remanded) to the VA’s regional offices by the Board of Veterans Appeals or the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims. One veteran recently told Bergmann & Moore outreach staff, “It might be quicker and more accurate if VA just decided with a coin-toss.”

The worst VA office is in Waco, Texas. It takes an average of 403 days to process a claim. Houston isn’t far behind, with an average of 302 days. These numbers prompted several news investigations in Texas.

Congress is taking action. The House Veterans Affairs Committee scheduled another hearing for September 21, investigating both the high error rates and long wait times at both VA in Texas. This follows the creation by the Texas Veterans Commission of an unique “State Strike Force Team” designed to help reduce VA’s inventory nightmare.

Short-term measures, however, won’t solve the long-term problem. VA still processes nearly all disability claims using paper files, which pile up and back up. VA makes errors in too many cases, resulting in too many claims having to be redone. Promised computerization and automation of the claims process is still years from implementation.

The result? As of September 8, more than 897,000 cases are pending, with 66% of those sitting around for longer than four months. Another 255,000 claims currently await appeal.

Bergmann & Moore’s Paul Sullivan, a Gulf War veteran who is managing director of public affairs and Veterans outreach, testified before Congress about the claims backlog this year. “With more than 1.1 million Veterans’s claims buried in VA bureaucracy,” Sullivan said, “The problem only gets worse.”

Want to know more? Follow our Bergmann & Moore blog where we regularly update you with the latest news about VA’s claims crisis and other issues related to the consequences of war.


0 Response

  1. I Started fighting When I was 20 , I am now 45 , Health is Failing after 30 surgeries , my case is still on Appeal and was remanded in Los Angeles for over 11 years…My life and Health have been almost completely Destroyed…I Pray that the fight will end soon , as I would like to have some Quality time with my Only Child who I havent seen for 10 years , as a result of all my health complications. Thank God for Bergman & Moore.

  2. Douglas C Dickinson (deceased)

    My husband served on the Enterprise and the Ranger and applied 2 different times for Agent Orange benefits only to be denied because he did not have boots on ground. I tried to get him to apply again before he passed away but he said it would do no good before they open one of his ships up he would be dead, I told him that might be true but I would not stop fighting for him until I am dead. It is certainly a good thing these veterans have learned not to expect too much back from a government they willingly served!
    My husband had several health problems that could have been pinned to Agent Orange and I would be glad to share his records if this could be resolved, I watched him suffer for several years.
    widow of Doug ….Mary Dickinson

  3. Thomas Stephens

    I feel for you, James and understand exactly where you are coming from. Hang in there, it will happen. I’m still waiting for closer to my claim as well. At least B&M got me on 100% but I still have back pay issues they are taking care of. You are represented by the best.

    Semper Fi

  4. David Davis

    Talk about nightmares!! My claim was back burnered in 1967 again in 1971 after spending 3 weeks in Buffalo VA hospital. Lost misplaced records since then the BVA in 2008 located another missing medical file of SMRs and records from hospital. Falsified medical records is hard to prove after they misfile them for 40 years. Now on a second remand since 2005 I know what the hamster wheel is all about. No VA employee is ever going to convince me that the slogan, Delay, Deny, and wait for em to Die is not in place by the high ups Congress, and all the other cronies in government. I know like Cushman that medical records are altered shredded or destroyed not only by the VA but DOD as well. Good luck Veterans and Americans we need to stand up against tyranny!!!

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