Letter Details Serious Delays and Errors at Cleveland RO, Nation
On February 20, 2013, U.S. Representative John Boehner (R-OH), the powerful Speaker of the House, sent a long and detailed letter to Secretary Eric Shinseki regarding the “broken” and “failed” claim processing at the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA). His letter represents an entirely new level of high-profile attention on VBA’s beleaguered claim processing system.
The Associated Press broke the story about Speaker Boehner’s letter to Secretary Shinseki. The heavy-hitting attention from Congress was picked up by all the TV networks and the Washington Post, with the headline, “House speaker says system for veterans’ disability claims is broken, cites ‘shameful’ failures.”
Speaker Boehner’s letter specifically targeted VBA’s Cleveland Regional Office (RO) in his home state of Ohio. The Speaker’s letter contains many of the facts posted on our Bergmann & Moore blog about chronic delays and errors processing Veterans’ disability compensation claims at several other VBA ROs. In the past few weeks, we highlighted similar serious challenges at VBA’s Baltimore RO.
One striking assertion in Speaker Boehner’s letter: “The data indicates that the VA has potentially made more than 400,000 errors in rating claims over the past three years.”
House speaker says system for veterans’ disability claims is broken, cites ‘shameful’ failures”
We believe his estimate is correct, and may be conservative. With more than one million claims processed each year, and VBA’s self-admitted error rate of 13.7 percent, that’s means as many as 410,000 VBA errors over a three year period. The result is a tidal wave of appealed claims, now a staggering 257,000 at the Board of Veterans’ Appeals.
The number of adversely impacted Veterans may be much higher. VA’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG) testified in 2012 that VBA’s error rate was as high as 30 percent on selected high-risk claims such as those related to agent orange, posttraumatic stress disorder, and temporary 100 percent disability evaluations. Based on the IG audits, VBA may have made as many as 900,000 mistakes among the more than three million claims processed during the last three years.
Speaker Boehner believes VBA’s performance continues deteriorating and remains unacceptable. We agree. Everyone wants VBA to reach the goal of a two percent error rate and no veteran waiting more than 125 days. Yet whatever VBA is doing isn’t working.