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Past 4 Years: VA Budget Up 40 Percent, Yearlong Pending Claims Up 2,000 Percent

Two-thirds of Senate implores Obama to take "direct action and involvement" to free 600,000 veterans from morass.

by
Bridget Johnson

Bio

April 29, 2013 - 7:05 pm
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At a hearing last week on VA outreach, Sanders bawled out the department for not even meeting its responsibilities with Congress, nevertheless veterans.

“It is completely unacceptable with the vast resources of the VA that they were incapable of submitting their testimony to this committee on time,” Sanders said before his opening statement. “It is disrespectful for us to do our job of oversight. We, by rule, are supposed to be receiving testimony in a way that we can absorb it and learn from it. Testimony came in late. This is the second time since I’ve been chair that this has happened. And I just want to make the VA aware that this is not going to continue.”

Ranking Member Richard Burr (R-N.C.) chimed in to say he’s got Sanders’ back.

“Whatever the chairman chooses to do I will back him fully,” Burr said. “I think that the committee deserves better from the VA and pledge to the chairman to work in whatever fashion to make sure that this practice — and I say practice because it is not an isolated incident — stops.”

Veterans Affairs announced on April 19 “an initiative to expedite compensation claims decisions for veterans who have waited one year or longer.”

That involves making a provisional decision on the oldest claims while allowing a one-year safety net period for veterans to submit additional information to weigh as evidence and not losing their appeal rights.

Priority processing continues for wounded Iraq and Afghanistan vets, former POWs and Medal of Honor recipients, and those who are homeless or terminally ill, the VA said.

Last week, a bipartisan group from the House Veterans Affairs Committee introduced the Veterans Administration (VA) Claims Efficiency through Information Act of 2013 to amend U.S. Code and make publicly available certain information about pending and completed claims. The VA would have to update the information, consisting of claims pending and average waits times by region and by medical condition, on a weekly basis.

“We must ensure that our veterans receive adequate and timely assistance by putting pressure on the VA to get this backlog under control,” said sponsor Rep. Gloria Negrete McLeod (D-Calif.). “After serving our country, too many veterans still wait too long for a decision on their disability compensation claims. This legislation will require more accountability from the VA by tracking the time spent evaluating each type of medical condition in a veteran’s disability claim: one of the biggest contributors to the claims backlog.”

A month ago, the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee implored Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, “as a veteran yourself,” to jump in and help clear the backlog of claims.

Sanders and Burr noted the recent agreement between the Pentagon and VA “to speed the delivery of evidence necessary for the adjudication of compensation claims.”

“We request that you ensure DoD makes smart investments in the resources and manpower necessary to expedite the transition from paper to electronic records transfer,” they wrote in a letter signed by all members of the committee. “We would also request that the DoD work closely with VA to ensure that Guard and Reserve records are included in this process.”

The letter highlighted “the absolute need for continued collaboration, cooperation and commitment between these two agencies.”

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Bridget Johnson is a career journalist whose news articles and opinion columns have run in dozens of news outlets across the globe. Bridget first came to Washington to be online editor at The Hill, where she wrote The World from The Hill column on foreign policy. Previously she was an opinion writer and editorial board member at the Rocky Mountain News and nation/world news columnist at the Los Angeles Daily News. She has contributed to USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, National Review Online, Politico and more, and has myriad television and radio credits as a commentator. Bridget is Washington Editor for PJ Media.

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Top Rated Comments   
But when the government takes over all medical care in the nation, the waste and fraud and bureaucratic bumbling will magically disappear. ;)
50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
"Correlation" is whats has allowed the system to become abused and abusive to the taxpayer. While the VA biomedical reasearch does some jaw dropping good research, it also does some very subjective non consensus research that gets enacted on. This is one of those politically self serving instances.

Thanks for bringing this up and many thanks for your well written and factual narrative. I have long advocated for moving the subjective caseload to the private sector for evaluations and decisions -- an easy contractual mechanism. Those in Re-evaluation status will be ever as much backlogged so it is a win-win for the abusers.
50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
All Comments   (20)
All Comments   (20)
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" More than half of the total backlog consists of Vietnam and Gulf War veterans."

I don't understand. When were these claims filed? Near the time of the injury? And if they are for injuries that were recently discovered, wouldn't it be natural for the department to have some skeptcism?
41 weeks ago
41 weeks ago Link To Comment
Of course the veteran's claims will go up. Some are so terribly wounded and many have lost limbs. The claims should automatically be filed when the "soldier" istreated overseas. If a location for treatment is needed, surely that can be filled in a little later. Our military medicine should be an example of the best America has top offer. It should never be third rate.
50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
I agree Donna.
Unfortunately!it will more likely be that soldiers won't get treatments needed&shortcuts taken from.My dad has to go for checkups with VA every 6 months& every time there what shouldn't take more than 30 minutes will take about 2 to 2&1/2 hours.Liz
50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
But when the government takes over all medical care in the nation, the waste and fraud and bureaucratic bumbling will magically disappear. ;)
50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
I wonder how many of those suicides represent vets who will NOT seek treatment because they know that gun-grabbing Democrats and RINOS are just waiting to pounce on any excuse to take the vets' Second Amendment civil rights away?
50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
I wonder if that rate is any higher than the national male suicide rate?
41 weeks ago
41 weeks ago Link To Comment
Need to look at the scams and fraud by those filing claims with VA. We had a group of Senior NCO's getting ready to retire comparing notes and what to claim. PTSD is a hot ticket item that increases their percentages. Also how the heck can a sidewalk Drill Sergeant that has never deployed get the CRC, while those of that have deployed don't have the right documentation?
50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
I know a guy who got full disability from the VA because he's overweight and won't discipline himself. In fact most of the people I know personally who are getting benefits from the VA are getting them because they have lived unhealthy lives. The answer is to abolish the VA and give vets insurance they can use at home.
50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
Yep. I recall meeting some phonies myself when donating some bucks and stopping in for a pint at a VFW during Xmas some years back.
50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
There are a lot of reasons why vets are not getting timely benefits. A few (but by no means the only) reasons:
1) The Obama Administration added a number of new disabilities to the list of Agent Orange presumptive conditions. Two of the conditions, diabetes and coronary artery disease, are primarily lifestyle issues, and they were added just when Vietnam vets are getting old enough that their lifestyles are catching up with them. VA does not require evidence of causation when determining whether a condition is considered Agent Orange presumptive. Correlation is enough. So if a lot of Vietnam vets are getting diabetes and heart disease in their 60s, well it must be due to Agent Orange. (I am unaware of a similar spike in diabetes, coronary artery disease, prostate cancer, etc. in the Vietnamese.) When the new regs came through, there were so many new claims that several Regional Offices cannibalized regular staff to set up special Agent Orange teams, and wait times for other claims skyrocketed.
2) Not every vet is a Wounded Warrior hero. The system is clogged with dubious claims. The really disabled are forced to wait in line while others are putting in claims for male pattern baldness, depression caused by in-service breast reduction scars... And tinnitus. Lots of tinnitus.
3) With websites like HadIt.com, vets have become quite savvy. A cottage industry has sprung up of doctors and psychologists willing to sell all-purpose medical opinions over the internet (Dr Bash? paging Dr. Bash?) And would-be Binder and Binder firms are trying to get a cut of disabled vets' money by throwing all kinds of poop on the wall hoping a few claims will stick.
4) There is a quality review program in Nashville which samples rating decisions for quality. But someone in the bowels of the VA bureaucracy thought it would be a great idea to set up quality teams in each of the Regional Offices nation-wide, and staff them with certified journeyman rating specialists who DO NOT PRODUCE RATINGS. In the largest Regional Office, there are about 15 of these individuals, representing a loss of production of dozens of ratings each day, or perhaps 1000 cases monthly. That is just one office, there offices in virtually every state in the country.
5) There is now a new national directive preventing any rating specialist from touching any case that is earlier than July 1, 2011. Good idea? Not so much. Old cases are not equally distributed through out the nation. Offices which do not have a lot of old cases are prohibited from addressing earlier cases, so raters who do not have old claims (because they have managed their workload properly) must not rate anything.
I could go on, but the problems never end.
50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
If I understood the chemist I spoke to, the dioxin impurity that they are referring to (agent orange was actually an attempt to lower the amount of dioxin impurity in the defoliant) was also present in Scott Turf Builder and the original PhisoHex. I suspect also in the old VO5 shampoo (remember those commercials?). A former Edgewood Chemical Engineer that I know told me agent organge was continued domestically at the request of American Rice farmers. The whole dioxin business is at least overstated.
41 weeks ago
41 weeks ago Link To Comment
"Correlation" is whats has allowed the system to become abused and abusive to the taxpayer. While the VA biomedical reasearch does some jaw dropping good research, it also does some very subjective non consensus research that gets enacted on. This is one of those politically self serving instances.

Thanks for bringing this up and many thanks for your well written and factual narrative. I have long advocated for moving the subjective caseload to the private sector for evaluations and decisions -- an easy contractual mechanism. Those in Re-evaluation status will be ever as much backlogged so it is a win-win for the abusers.
50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
Are you referring to PTSD, which although it does appear to exist in some cases, was originally invented during the VietNam War by leftists who thought our military were guilt-ridden Nazis?
41 weeks ago
41 weeks ago Link To Comment
Nice posts, both of you.

Might I add, "It's the economy, stupid." Lots of people are jumping on the government-money bandwagon, because it's the only game in town.

I have a good buddy, who wants to work, but he is a bit limited, because he kinda got blown up a bit. If he could find work, he would not be pressing the partial disability, nor be seeking government positions, nor government financial aid for schooling.

If the economy were better, he could find work. Despite his limitations, someone would hire him, and make allowances for his limitations.
50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
That's a good point. The correlation of the economy and the claims might actually imply causation, i nthis case.
41 weeks ago
41 weeks ago Link To Comment
I would like to see somebody younger with the energy start a funding mechanism for 'relocating' inspired vets to the good jobs or entry level opportunities. We're finding that so many vets with good and great qualifications are simply so underfunded, making travel for interviews and relocation impossible. Heck, depending on the locale, it takes $3-5,000 just to get settled into a place once relocated.
50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
My heart goes out to fellow vets, A D, Guard, Reserves etc., in many respects whom need the V A for a myriad of matters.

Though there are MANY of the aforementioned which abuse and are committing fraud.

I know 3 Army vets who continue to receive 20-40% of their former A D pay and taxpayer provided V A visits/ check-ups.

The one receiving 40% claims the Army overlooked his 'asthma'. He KNEW he'd asthma, didn't disclose said asthma when joining AND on top of that he's a continuing lifelong smoker!

The other 2 people have similar falsehoods. Whereas they'd joke about their theft!

I know an USAF vet who sponges off the system too. The Army doesn't have this career field whereas he'd seen his share of 'Army support'. He's used this backdrop to obtain benes as well.

As many A D, vets are aware of - the overwhelming # of military career fields are NOT available if/ when seeking like-minded work when returning to/ retiring to civilian life.

The Army, Dep't of the Navy are the 3 leading services possessing the most combat ready, overseas jobs, respectively.

Often times all military services do not allow individuals to cross-train into a more civilian-conducive type job. Whether it's due to their being critical career field, the military time/ money invested etc.,

Many of these people have families, children etc., When ending their military career many didn't, don't and/ or in some instances not allowed to attend C C, J C or 4-year schools.

Their going from a health insurance provided, safe and law abiding community, base housing with NO rent nor electrical bills, low on-base gas prices, tax-free grocery stores, NEX/ and BX/PX malls - moving back to civilian life.

These folks will do anything, blame anyone and find their deception/ theft 'just and deserving'.

With our military being an ALL voluntary workforce, enlistee hopefuls can study and test successfully to obtain the proficiency necessary for the job(s) they prefer rather than enlisting, 'Open General' job-wise whereas the powers that be decide for them.

I waited 5 months in the Delayed Enlistment Program, awaiting an opening for my chosen career field.

The ridiculously higher uptick 'Pending Claims' more than likely has many 'just and deserving' types.

With this rise in pending claims, it'll inevitably bring about pols demanding more Federal employees at our V A's too.

Yep, tens of thousands of more Federal employees will 'help'.
50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
Great narriative! Abuse eventually leads to cuts and those cuts always end up hurting legitimate derserving vets while the abusers giggle and go on to their next fraud. I hope you will always find the the time to advocate for our veterans in any ways you can and fight the abusive fraud to protect the derserving.
50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
Vietnam verterans claiming disabilities now is a fraud! When one looks at the total number of military participants in the recent wars vs. the numbers of 'disability' claims being made it screams whoaaaa hoss!

I'm betting if we had the old system from 1776 to 1811 there wouldn't be such large numbers of claims. Since 1930, the VA has grown from 54 hospitals, too 152 hospitals, 800 community based outpatient clinics, 126 nursing home care units and 35 domiciliaries. Most of the verterans of WWII and Korea (the nations larget combat force numbers) are gone. The Vietnam era is aged with legitimate disability claims long settled. Per capita, the vets from the non conventional Iraq and Afghanistan wars, filing disability claims, is an astounding record number. Now consider that in the past, once legitimately deemed disabled you were separate from active duty and based on years of service, separated from the service. Today, we have personnel returning to active duty having sustained all kinds of combat injuries to include loss of limbs -- some, even returning to their old special ops units.

I just witnessed a soldier two weeks ago, finally clear his award for service connected disability. Served three years CONUS through 2011. Got drunk and rammed his fist through a wood veneer door, sustaining permanently damage to the nerves in his hand.

While I vigilantly advocate for legitimate disability benefits I also advocate strongly against abuse and fraud of the system. The latter, a loosing battle in these times.
50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
I concur, Zeke1.

The 'FWA' or fraud, waste & abuse for disability claims is alarming.
50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
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