Veterans, Congress, and Reporters All Face Unreasonable VBA Delays
(See Update Below)
With 1.4 million disability claims pending, our Veterans and the nation remain painfully aware of the unreasonably long delays and denials for disability benefit claims at the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA). However, the search for facts, and by extension, accountability at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), continues to be highly elusive for Veterans, Congress, and even reporters.
Congress Seeks VA Transparency
A few months ago, U.S. Representative Jeff Miller, Chairman of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee (HVAC), started complaining loudly about how VA delays and denies the production of testimony, documents, and reports to Congress needed for oversight. After all, Congress is expected to appropriate $152 billion during 2014 for VA to provide healthcare and disability benefits to our Veterans.
Reporter Encounters VA Stonewalling
Now, to show VA is an equal-opportunity obstructionist, the agency refuses requests by reporters asking about VA’s claim delay and error crisis. Writing for The News Journal in Wilmington, Delaware, longtime military reporter Bill McMichael describes an intensely frustrating encounter with the VA’s national press office in which he tried to get answers about the growing backlog at a specific VBA regional office.
He wrote last week that it had been 38 days since he asked VA for an official to explain why Veterans’ disability claims were being transferred from Baltimore and Philadelphia to Wilmington last year. The transfers, McMichael wrote, have increased Wilmington’s backlog, which he said “continues to grow despite an overall national trend in the opposite direction.”
Newspaper Blasts VA’s “Height of Arrogance”
Not surprisingly, McMichael is still waiting for VA to give him an answer. “It’s the height of arrogance – and a lack of responsiveness that is an insult to every veteran left waiting at Wilmington,” he wrote.
This encounter begs the question: At what point does VA become accountable under the law to Congress, under freedom of the press to reporters, and under their obligation to care for and provide benefits to our disabled Veterans in a timely manner?
Update: 10AM, January 30
Reporter Bill McMichael posted a story on Wednesday night, “Guess Who Called Me Back? VA!”, describing how VA scheduled an interview with him for Friday. We will keep you posted on the outcome.