Veterans

February 25, 2013

Boehner says U.S. veterans’ claims system is broken

U.S. House Speaker John Boehner said the system for handling veterans’ disability claims is broken and he wants the head of the Department of Veterans Affairs to explain what is being done to fix it.

Boehner, a Republican from Ohio, said in a letter to Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki this week that the benefit delivery system for veterans has not shown any noticeable improvement in the four years Shinseki has headed the department and the backlog of compensation claims “remains alarmingly high.”

The VA was preparing a formal response to Boehner’s letter, a VA spokesman said Feb. 22. The VA has said it completed a “record-breaking” 1 million claims per year the past three years.

But the speaker wrote in his letter that the backload remains high, especially in Ohio, despite the announcement at the Cleveland Veterans Affairs Regional Office last summer of a new organizational model to help reduce the backlog by 2015. The Cleveland office, which handles claims from around the state, is now processing claims in an average of 334 days compared with the national average of 272 days and the VA’s own goal of 125 days, Boehner said.

Since the transformation began at the Cleveland office, the average time to process a claim has increased by 20 percent, or about 56 days, and the current national average has increased by 17.7 percent since January 2012, Boehner said.

The speaker said in a statement that he has been “disappointed and disheartened by the results” of the new system and that system failures reported by Ohio veterans are “shameful.” His office is handling more than 100 unresolved claims from Ohio veterans, including one from Air Force veteran Tiffany Hilliard, of Troy.

Hilliard said Friday that she has been waiting more than a year to add her now 17-month-old daughter as a dependent. She said she was told when checking last month on the status of her October 2011 request that inquiries about claim statuses were no longer being handled because of the backlog. Hilliard said she has lost benefits by not having her daughter listed as a dependent but hopes that “speaking out might help other veterans who may need more help.”

Army veteran Randy Bitner, of Eaton, said he submitted a disability claim around March 2011 and received a form letter last month saying he was now in the system. Bitner said he has received no information about the timing for resolving his claim.

Data from a report on work load indicators reported by Veterans Benefits Administration field offices for Jan. 24, 2009, showed the number of pending compensation claims nationwide at roughly 390,000, with 10,500 of those pending at the Cleveland office, Boehner wrote. He said the report for Feb. 11, 2013, showed the total pending compensation claims had grown to 821,000, with more than 71 percent older than 125 days.

The VA said in 2010 that it invested $138 million in a digital paperless claims system that would be deployed in 2012. The VA has acknowledged that too many veterans have to wait too long to get benefits but says the paperless system will eliminate the backlog and the technology is expected to reach all 56 regional VA offices by the end of this year.

But Boehner wants answers now. He asked Shinseki to reply to his questions within 30 days.

Boehner’s questions include whether the VA’s benefits office has started to convert old paper files to digital ones and what end date is projected for conversion. Boehner also wants to know what the VA, which he says potentially made more than 400,000 errors in rating claims over the past three years, has done to reduce the time veterans are waiting to have claims reviewed and re-adjudicated.

He asked whether Shinseki believes the VA is on track to achieve its goals of processing claims in under 125 days and eliminating the claims backlog by 2015.

“America’s veterans,” Boehner wrote, “are counting on you.”

 




All of this week's top headlines to your email every Friday.


 
 

 

Headlines December 19, 2014

News: SpaceX’s attempt to land rocket on floating barge postponed - It’s set to be one of the most groundbreaking moments in humanity’s six decades of space exploration. Obama signs $1.1 trillion spending bill into law - President Obama signed the $1.1 trillion federal spending measure into law Dec. 16, officially ending any threat of a government...
 
 

News Briefs December 19, 2014

Trial set for ex-Navy engineer in military secrets case A former Navy civilian engineer is scheduled to stand trial next summer on charges of trying to steal aircraft carrier schematics. Media outlets report that 35-year-old Mostafa Awwad of Yorktown, Va., pleaded not guilty Dec. 17 to two counts of attempted exportation of defense articles and...
 
 
Army photograph by C. Todd Lopez

Army to launch cruise missile-detecting aerostat at Aberdeen Proving Ground

Army photograph by C. Todd Lopez The Army plans to launch an aerostat, part of the “Joint Land Attack Cruise Missile Defense Elevated Netted Sensor,” in late December 2014. The JLENS aerostat will be tethered to the...
 

 
Air Force photograph by SrA. Jordan Castelan

AF delivers Iraqi F-16s for training in US

Air Force photograph by SrA. Jordan Castelan Iraqi air force captain Hama conducts preflight inspections while inside a new to service Iraqi F-16 Fighting Falcon Dec. 17, 2014, located at the nearby Tucson International Airport...
 
 
Air Force photograph by SSgt. Derek VanHorn

Short-notice: A new way to exercise

Air Force photograph by SSgt. Derek VanHorn Airmen from Kadena Air Base, Japan, prepare for an aeromedical evacuation exercise on a KC-135 Stratotanker Dec. 5, 2014, at Misawa Air Base, Japan. The operation was executed in supp...
 
 
Lockheed Martin photograph by Andy Wolfe

Japan, Australia to provide F-35 maintenance sites in Pacific region

Lockheed Martin photograph by Andy Wolfe An F-35C Lightning II joint strike fighter carrier variant prepares to launch from the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz in the Pacific Ocean, Nov. 6, 2014. Japan and Australia will be sharing...
 




0 Comments


Be the first to comment!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>