This week, a brand new internal VA audit and a news report revealed even more significant problems at VA’s beleaguered Oakland Regional Office. In a related matter, Veterans groups who lost a key court battle against VA vowed to take their battle to the Supreme Court.
Reporter Aaron Glantz at the Bay Citizen asked Bergmann & Moore about the claim delay and error crisis in Oakland. “With today’s release of VA’s Inspector General’s audits for San Diego and Oakland, a reasonable person can conclude nearly all of the Veterans Benefits Administration remains deeply mired in crisis, with little chance of recovery unless President Obama and Congress act immediately,” said Paul Sullivan, the Managing Director of Public Affairs & Veteran Outreach at Bergmann & Moore.
VA’s Office the Inspector General (OIG) audit found that VA misplaced mail important for deciding Veterans’ disability claims. After VA’s infamous shredding scandal a few years ago, VA’s promised reforms appear to be insufficient. VA’s OIG report revealed how VA made mistakes in 59% of Veterans’ traumatic brain injury (TBI) claims. VA isn’t meeting acceptable standards for our new Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans with TBI.
Overall, VA’s OIG concluded the Oakland Regional Office improperly processed 39 percent of 90 disability claims audited. Please note VA’s OIG cautions that results do not represent the overall accuracy of disability claims processing in Oakland. Any way we look at VA’s OIG investigation, VA’s Oakland Regional Office gets a failing grade.
The report and news coverage about VA’s Oakland office follow in the wake of a landmark lawsuit filed in 2007 by Veterans against VA. Veterans for Common Sense (VCS) and Veterans United for Truth (VUFT) sued the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), alleging long delays and improper denials in healthcare and disability benefits. VA’s Oakland Regional Office in Northern California was named as a defendant in the case. Veterans alleged VA’s systemic failures to provide prompt disability benefits and healthcare harmed our Veterans, especially Veterans suffering from post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). For example, VA delays and mistakes are causing our Veterans with PTSD to face additional challenges such as unemployability, homelessness, and suicide.
In a stunning development on May 7, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against VCS and VUFT. Even with more funding, new laws, and greater oversight, Congress hasn’t fixed VA. With additional funding and staff plus new leaders, VA remains broken. As a result of the new Appeals Court decision, the plaintiffs in the case vowed to take their appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.