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Washington Examiner Series on VBA Sparks Congressional Outrage

Ongoing Investigative Reports Prompted by Bergmann & Moore Expose More Problems at VBA 

Mark Flatten, Investigative Reporter, Washington Examiner. Photo Courtesy Washington Examiner.

Mark Flatten, Investigative Reporter, Washington Examiner. Photo Courtesy Washington Examiner.

Bergmann & Moore was once again a proud participant in a groundbreaking media examination of the problems with disability claims at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). A series of compelling and exclusive news stories on VA’s Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) run by the Washington Examiner, for which B&M was a primary source, prompted a FOX News interview plus a scathing letter from Speaker of the House John Boehner to VA Secretary Eric Shinseki.

Bergmann & Moore’s experts met with Examiner reporters to share highly incriminating VBA reports, leading to the press coverage and, subsequently, a Congressional firestorm that included a call for the firing of VBA employees.

This story from Examiner investigative reporter Mark Flatten, which helped launch the remarkable series, shockingly notes how accuracy reports were manipulated by VBA to make it appear that employees make fewer mistakes on claims than they actually do. Paul Sullivan, B&M’s director of veterans outreach and public affairs, tells the reporter in this story that VA is “notorious for flat-out cooking the books. The error rate is under-reported and it’s intentional. VA is trying to hide VA’s blunders and mistakes.”

VA is notorious for flat-out cooking the books.” —  Bergmann & Moore’s Paul Sullivan

This follow-up article recounts the tragic story of Jim Landy, a 26-year Navy veteran who died of esophageal cancer last Thanksgiving – four years after he filed a claim for service-connected disability payments from VBA. Inexcusably, Landy’s claim was was still pending at VBA when he died. In this story, Sullivan tells the Examiner that substituting newer and simpler cases for older and more complex ones to make it appear VBA is moving them more quickly is a widespread tactic within VBA.  Claim processors cleared out most of the easy claims, Sullivan explains, and is left with the more difficult ones.

Another five articles were prompted by B&M’s explanation to the Examiner of VBA’s claim delay and error:

* This story addresses the fact that VBA officials continue to absurdly insist that the claims backlog is not the agency’s fault, when VBA ignored internal warnings and failed to plan for nearly 800,000 claims filed by Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans;

* This video shows there are one million veterans waiting for their claims;

* Here, the Examiner reports that in the letter to Secretary Shinseki, Speaker Boehner calls the VBA’s claims mess a disservice to veterans and says, “Regardless of how we parse the numbers, there is a (claims) backlog; it is too big, and veterans are waiting too long for decisions”;

* In this story, veterans groups express deep skepticism that VBA will meet its pledge to accurately process the unfinished inventory of claims by 2015;

* And in this piece that ran on Feb. 26, the Examiner reports that Congressional leaders of both parties are now insisting that chronically poor-performing managers and claims processors at VBA should be fired to insure accountability and encourage elimination of a nagging backlog of disability and pension cases.

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