Bergmann & Moore Sends Comments to VBA on Fixing VBA’s Call Centers
Waiting. Disappointment. Frustration. Anger. When Bergmann & Moore speaks with Veterans and family members who call the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) to determine the status of a disability compensation claim, they are very disappointed at all the endless waiting, often becoming frustrated and angry that VBA often doesn’t answer the phone and VBA doesn’t provide accurate information.
So Bergmann & Moore became interested when the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) posted a notice in the Federal Register on September 13, 2012, asking for comments about collecting data on performance of calls placed to VBA’s infamous toll-free “Inquiry Routing and Information System” (IRIS), at 800-827-1000. Since our founding in 2004, Bergmann & Moore aggressively represents our Veterans and their families. Based on that experience, Bergmann & Moore submitted comments to the VBA this week urging VBA to address serious problems.
How bad are VBA’s call centers? IRIS is truly deplorable and in need of urgent improvement. Our veterans have a right to know the status of their claims in an accurate, friendly, and quick manner. Unfortunately, nearly 900,000 claims are now pending at VBA, and veterans wait an average of eight months for VBA to provide a decision. That means the waiting, disappointment, frustration, and anger escalate as the number of veterans waiting and the length of time increase.
Here are the most recent facts showing why data collection about IRIS is important. According to VA’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG):
In [Fiscal Year] 2009, individuals reached an agent 76 percent of the time. Of those reaching an agent, agents answered 72 percent of their questions correctly. When we combined VBA’s reported data on access and accuracy, we concluded that any one call placed by a unique caller had a 49 percent chance of reaching an agent and getting the correct information (Veterans Benefits Administration: Audit of National Call Centers and the Inquiry Routing and Information System, May 13, 2010).
VA made the right call by asking for input as a critical first step. But here’s the bottom line: With feedback from the public, let’s hope VBA’s call centers improve.