The WasteWatcher: The Staff Blog of Citizens Against Government Waste

More Oversight Needed for our Veterans

The WasteWatcher is the staff blog of Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) and the Council for Citizens Against Government Waste (CCAGW). For questions, contact blog@cagw.org.


On January 24, 2011, the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) issued a report detailing the improper benefits given to disabled veterans. The report discussed temporary 100 percent benefits, which the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) is supposed to continually monitor and reduce when necessary and concluded that the VBA made mistakes in “about 27,500 (15 percent) of these veterans’ evaluations.” These mistakes “will overpay veterans a projected $1.1 billion over the next 5 years.”

The majority of the incorrectly processed evaluations occurred because VA Regional Office (VARO) personnel “did not enter the required future medical exam date into VBA’s electronic records,” or when dates were entered, they were ignored by VARO staff. Failing to schedule the exams allows for continued full benefits for those whose conditions may have improved. The OIG detailed a case in which a veteran received improper benefits totaling $148,874 over six years because VARO staff ignored a notification to enter a future medical exam.

Despite the OIG raising concerns with the VBA nearly two years ago, the problems persist. On June 19, 2012, a House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs hearing touched on many of these issues. Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Ranking Member Bob Filner (D-Calif.) asked VA Under Secretary for Benefits Allison Hickey why the agency was still failing to enter many of the future exam dates into the electronic records. Under Secretary Hickey answered that “it was a computer glitch” that had recently been fixed; but more recent OIG reports are not on her side. A September 2012 OIG inspection of VARO’s in Cleveland, Ohio, Wichita, Kansas, and Winston-Salem, North Carolina found that VARO staff continued to fail to enter future medical exam dates into electronic records.

As a result of the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, there are a growing number of veterans applying for benefits, which has contributed to a huge backlog. As of September 24, 2012, 890,000 claimants awaited approval of benefits. This means a staggering amount of veterans are not getting the benefits that they rightly deserve, while many others get improper amounts.

The OIG report touched on this issue as well, finding that for 13 percent, or 3,500 of the improperly processed evaluations, “VARO staff failed to grant additional benefits…when supported by the medical evidence or failed to grant entitlement to ancillary benefits.” An example given by the OIG showed that one veteran was underpaid $60,651 over a three-year span, despite sufficient medical evidence that his injury was service connected.

Correcting the errors found by the OIG as well as increased oversight by Congress may help resolve these problems and free up money to be directed to veterans who are currently not being justly compensated.

It is critically important that those who served our country get suitable benefits. It is not fair that some veterans are either being undercompensated for their injuries, or cannot get their benefits because of a growing and unnecessary backlog.

  -- Tom Miller

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