VA’s Olive Branch

In E-mail Leak, VBA Seeks “Big Brains” to Fix Broken Disability Claims System

Is the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) considering thinking outside the box?

The massive disability claims delay and error crisis overwhelming the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA), which is part of VA, took an unusual turn last week when a top VBA leader asked her subordinates to seek guidance outside the deeply troubled agency.

In an exclusive story from the Washington Examiner, investigative journalist Mark Flatten reports how VBA’s Under Secretary for Benefits, Allison Hickey, wrote a high-priority e-mail at 8:20 AM on Saturday, March 30, asking for a “Backlog BIG Ideas Meeting.”  The email, which was reportedly sent to 20 to executives at VA, called on a group of “brilliant and experienced thinkers from inside and outside VA” to quickly eliminate the claims backlog, which is now nearing 1 million and increasing.

VBA remains under the most intense external pressure in the agency’s history, as our Veterans face an average wait of 292 days for an initial claim decision from VBA plus mistakes in 30 percent of disability benefit decisions, according to VA’s Office of the  Inspector General.

Newspapersmagazinesmembers of Congress and veterans advocates have all sharpened their focus in recent weeks on the backlog calamity.

Hickey’s memo adds fuel to the idea floated last month by Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) that President Obama should quickly form a presidential commission to tackle the backlog.

According to Flatten at the Examiner, among the people Hickey thinks should be brought in to help fix the problem is Bergmann & Moore’s Paul Sullivan, a longtime Veterans advocate who once worked at VA.

Under Secretary Hickey’s olive branch may result in demonstrable and positive culture change within VBA that puts our Veterans first.  As World War II General and former VA Administrator Omar Bradley said, “We are dealing with veterans, not procedures—with their problems, not ours.”

The relentless media and congressional pressure on VBA shows no sign of abating, so keep watching our Bergmann & Moore blog for new details.


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