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Veterans, I Salute You And Offer My Sincere Apologizes--you Deserve Better


George Patton
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I am sending you the same information that I recently called and relayed to a staff member of the Chicago Tribune. This Monday, October 27, 2008, Senator Durbin and Senator Akaka will visit the Chicago VBA Regional Office for an inspection. Recently, it has leaked to the public that some VBA employees across the nation have purposely thrown veterans' mail in the garbage. This is a problem because, in most instances, a veteran's claim for compensation may hinge on the missing article. I have come across veterans that have assured me that they sent in documents pertinent to their claim, only to be informed that the mail was never received.

Well, the two senators will be visiting the Chicago VBA RO on Monday. However, I am afraid that they will be unable to detect problems within this agency, as everyone has been ordered to behave in a manner that exudes professionalism and commitment to the veterans.

The Chicago VBA RO has for years been scrutinized by Sen. Obama and Sen. Durbin in an effort to determine why Illinois’ veterans receive minimal compensation for their injuries--when compared to other states. This is alarming because our state has quite a large veteran population. The workload has been a great problem for this office as they continue to struggle to reduce pending compensation claims. This is due to being short staffed, as well as having managers who received their promotions by being friendly with those in power.

Here is a brief breakdown of the organization:

Triage: 1st Stage

At this stage, this is where a veteran's initial and subsequent paper work comes into the agency. At a minimal, the mail received in Triage (the mail room) should be processed in about seven days and placed in the appropriate claims folder. However, this is not the case at this office. Mail sometimes stay in the mailroom for four to six weeks and, in some instances, are misfiled or lost.

Pre Development: 2nd Stage

At this point, veterans service representatives (VSR's) are tasked with examining the veteran's claims folder and sending appropriate notice to the veteran. For instance, they are supposed to ensure that a letter acknowledging receipt of the claim is mailed to the claimant. It usually takes months for this correspondence to be mailed, usually at the request of the veteran repeatedly contacting the office and pleading with it to send the material. The document is important because it is proof (receipt) that the claim was received and the veteran does not have to be concerned that the claim has been “lost” of “misprocessed.” This receipt is also relevant because it explains to the veteran what is needed to grant compensation, as well as inform the veteran to submit private treatment records or other evidence they may help to establish the claim.

A major problem at this stage, the VSR's sometimes fail to identify all the issues the veteran is seeking compensation. Therefore, some exams that should have been ordered or not, and when the veteran finally gets his or her award letter, the person discovers that he or she must contact the VA, once more, for proper and complete adjudication. Once, the exams have been complete and the required documentation collected, the VSR reviews the claims folder to determine if it is ready for a decision. If it is, the folder is transferred to the RVSR—the decision-maker and evaluator.

Rating Board: 3rd Stage

At this stage, the claims folder is brought to the RVSR for a decision. In theory, at this stage the case has been properly developed and awaiting a decision. However, 50% of the time (and I am being generous) the claim is not ready for a decision. For instance, the VSR (2nd stage) may have failed to examine the received medical examinations thoroughly to decide if all issues needing a medical opinion have been provided. Hence, claims folders are passed to RVSR's missing exams, service treatment records, and DD-214. The case is not ready for a decision and must be deferred for other examinations or other items, delaying the veteran’s claim.

In some instances, Triage (the mail room) fails to adequately process mail. For instance, a veteran may have submitted additional evidence showing compensation is warranted. However, if this information is not entered into the database and the mail placed in the claims folder on time, the veteran's claim may be denied—and I have witnessed this quite often.

Production standards are another problem at this office that are contributing to an employee’s mistakes. For one, a VSR must process a certain number of claims per day in order to meet his or her quota. Sometimes they are only half-heartedly reviewing the claims folder. In reality, they are tasked with examining the service medical records and identifying in-service disabilities and conditions, private medical records and tabbing relevant information that will assist the RVSR in rendering a decision. However, when there are four volumes of military medical records, a person cannot possibly examine them all and make his or her arbitrary quota for the day.

The RVSR is also under arbitrary production standards. He or she must receive a certain number of credits to meet an irrelevant quota. You have evaluators missing / ignoring issues that should have been granted. It is not that they want to shortchange the veteran; the system is not set up to allow an evaluator to properly assess the entirety of the claims folder, which can be as much as four to five volumes.

At this office, the sentiments are not "do a good job" so that veterans may receive the benefits the US promised. Instead, in all my years, it has always been let's process as many claims as possible to get the backlog down and, if we miss an issue, the veteran can always file another claim.

I have worked at the Chicago VBA RO for over five years and am a veteran myself. If I was seeking compensation, I would want my claim handled appropriately and given the proper amount of time to render a fair and balance decision. Unfortunately, that does not always happen at this office.

There are some great employees in this office, and many go beyond the call of duty, often staying late to complete a claim. Nevertheless, management (at this office and those at the national office) continue to place unreasonable pressure on employees. When this occurs, it is no surprise that veterans are being harmed.

There have been recent reports that some psychologists and psychiatrists are refusing to diagnose PTSD when the finding is warranted, with some administrators instructing medical staff to make the veterans come back several times before giving away the golden goose. This is not the way we treat our veterans. They demand our deepest respect, sincere thanks, and an authentic pat on the back.

I am contacting the national media and local media in the Chicago land area, as well as veterans organizations with anticipation that Monday’s visitors will be greeted by genuine people concerned about veterans’ compensation.

Please help me spread this message to others who care about veterans. If you are not able to come out Monday call the director's office and voice your concerns.

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Mr. Patton- I can send this to numerous on line vet orgs I deal with and I assure you the information will also be given to the VA Watchdog team immediatley -

I was instrumental in helping to get the initial shreddergate news into the vast internet community of veterans-and news outlets across the nation-and did a radio shopw on it 2 days after it broke with one of the VA Watchdogs

I was just finishing myself letters to the H VAC, the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations and also the VA OIG when my email clicked and I saw this post-

But first- I need some assurance of who you are-

can you contact me via the Profile thing -I will open my email for you.

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I mean -you can be anonymous with me of course- I just dont want to pass this info on without a little more input from you-

dont know if George Patton is your real name- but I sure read his books and he has inspired me numerous times on the battlefield of the VA claims process. :lol:

Please email me.

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This is why visits need to be no-notice. Whenever I write to my elected officials these are the type of visits I request! The government just loves to CYA!! This way they can tell us and the general public that they "inspected" the facility in question and everything was in order......oh BS. We know better.

We all know that the shredding and destruction of documents has likely been going on for years and will continue no matter what. We are dealing with an agency that doesn't care anything about us, we have to look out for ourselves.

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Great name! According to Intelius.com, there are 217 adults in the U.S. with the name "George Patton." Obviously, it is not uncommon.

Ron

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This is why visits need to be no-notice. Whenever I write to my elected officials these are the type of visits I request! The government just loves to CYA!! This way they can tell us and the general public that they "inspected" the facility in question and everything was in order......oh BS. We know better.

We all know that the shredding and destruction of documents has likely been going on for years and will continue no matter what. We are dealing with an agency that doesn't care anything about us, we have to look out for ourselves.

I agree that inspections should not be announced. Thus, Friday I called Sen. Akaka's office and spoke with a staff member to voice my concern. The member told me it is difficult for a person with Akaka's status to make a surprise visit, which I do not believe. I was told during a meeting with management that some of his staff will be visiting the office and some of them know what to look for. This may or may nor be true. If a person has never worked in a VBA office or had routine interaction with VBA personnel, it may be difficult to determine if something is not correct.

I assure you there are VBA enployees who really do work for veterans; they tend to be veterans themselves. However, I have also heard some ridiculous comments from employees. One employee, while examinng a veteran's claimed folder said, "I do not know why he is seeking service connection for _______ disorder. Afterall, the person voluntered for service." When I heard this statement, I was shocked and appalled. Using that kind of logic, no one should volunteer for service and expect to be compensated when injured.

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