On July 14, 2014, Linda Halliday, Assistant Inspector General for Audits and Evaluations in the Veterans Affairs Office of the Inspector General (OIG), testified before the House Veterans Affairs Committee on the progress the VA has made with some changes they’ve supposed to have been putting into effect over the past few years.
Despite the fact that the problems at the VA have been under scrutiny for years and that the VA has committed numerous times to implementing the many recommendations made, the OIG inspections continue to find that, while some improvements have been made, the VA is still not fully living up to those commitments.
Since March 2013, the VA has been attempting to improve their VA Disability Claims process and decrease the backlog by putting in place initiatives and procedures with a goal of achieving an accuracy rate of 98% within 125 days by 2015. The OIG, however, continues to find a significant amount of errors in accuracy during their inspections of VA Regional Offices. Looking at just TBI cases, the OIG recently found that processing errors continue to occur in 27% of these cases. That’s still a long way off from their 2% goal.
Similarly, the OIG reported in January 2011 that the VA was paying out way too much money to about 27,500 veterans. These cases in particular dealt with veterans who had been temporarily assigned a 100% VA Disability Rating. When assigning these ratings, the VA is required to have the condition re-evaluated regularly so that they can then assign a permanent rating once the condition has stabilized. In 2011, 27,500 of the 181,000 cases had not been re-evaluated in far too long and not given permanent ratings, resulting in a massive amount of overpayments.
To fix the issue, the OIG made 7 recommendations to help the VA properly process these claims. The OIG now reports that only 6 of these recommendations have been properly put into place, resulting in over $400,000 in overpayments this year alone. The failure to implement that 7th recommendation has raised questions about the VA’s commitment to reduce these improper payments.
The OIG continues to conduct inspections and make recommendations for fixing the problems they uncover. Hopefully the new leadership at the VA will take those recommendations and actually put them to use making the necessary changes that have been far too long in coming.