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Unopened Claims Letters Hidden At Va Offices

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  • HadIt.com Elder

Unopened Claims Letters Hidden at VA Offices

Posted on March 08, 2009 by gm http://www.addthis.com/bookmark.phpvar addthis_pub = \'peapolzmedia\';

By Rick Maze

A new report about Veterans Affairs Department employees squirreling away tens of thousands of unopened letters related to benefits claims is sparking fresh concerns that veterans and their survivors are being cheated out of money.

VA officials acknowledge further credibility problems based on a new report of a previously undisclosed 2007 incident in which workers at a Detroit regional office turned in 16,000 pieces of unprocessed mail and 717 documents turned up in New York in December during amnesty periods in which workers were promised no one would be penalized.

“Veterans have lost trust in VA,” Michael Walcoff, VA’s under secretary for benefits, said at a hearing Tuesday. “That loss of trust is understandable, and winning back that trust will not be easy.”

Unprocessed and unopened mail was just one problem in VA claims processing mentioned by Belinda Finn, VA’s assistant inspector general for auditing, in testimony before the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee.

Auditors also found that the dates recorded for receiving claims, which in many cases determine the effective date for benefits payments, are wrong in many cases because of intentional and unintentional errors, Finn said.

The worst case uncovered by auditors involved the New York regional office, where employees testified that managers told staff to put later dates on claims to make it appear claims were being processed faster. A review found that 56 percent of claims had incorrect dates, although no evidence was found of incorrect or delayed benefits payments. Finn said workers reported that this practice had been used for years.

The new report comes as VA is trying to resolve an earlier controversy involving documents essential to the claims process that were discovered in bins awaiting shredding at several regional offices, which raised questions about how many past claims had been delayed or denied because of intentional or unintentional destruction of documentation.

‘It is impossible not to be shocked’

Kathryn Witt of Gold Star Wives of America said survivors trying to receive VA benefits have long complained about problems getting accurate information and missing claims. “When they call to check on the status of the claim, they are often told that the VA has no record of their claim and that they should resubmit their paperwork,” she said.

In one case, a woman claimed she had to submit paperwork to VA three times to prove she was married and had three children, Witt said.

And having to resubmit the same claim, she added, does nothing to reduce the backlog that already forces survivors to wait six to nine months for simple claims to be approved.

“It is impossible not to be shocked by the numbers from Detroit,” said Rep. Harry Mitchell, D-Ariz., who chairs the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee’s oversight and investigations panel. “Shredding documents or burying them in the bottom drawer is a breach of trust. Whether that breach of trust comes as a consequence of inadequate training or negligent or deliberate behavior, Congress must not and will not tolerate it.”

It is unclear, however, whether there is any short-term fix.

A permanent solution is to have a fully electronic claims process to establish a record of when documents are received and their status as they move through the process. A fully electronic system will not be in place before 2011, VA officials said.

Kerry Baker of Disabled American Veterans said a short-term answer could be to scan all documents related to claims into computer systems. Baker, DAV’s assistant national legislative director, said this could be done at one or more large-scale imaging centers that would transform paper into electronic records.

“A large section of the veterans community and representatives of the community have long felt that the Veterans Benefits Administration operates in such a way that stalls the claims process until frustrated claimants either give up or die,” Baker said.

He said that although he doesn’t believe that is true, something must be done.

“Denying earned benefits by illegally destroying records should serve as the proverbial wake-up call that signals the urgency of this overdue transformation,” he said.

Geneva Moore, a senior veterans service representative from Winston-Salem, N.C., who testified on behalf of the American Federation of Government Employees, a union that counts about 160,000 VA workers among its members, said backdating claims and document shredding are signs of a claims system under stress.

“Clearly, if the disability claims process were already paperless, many of the problems being considered at this hearing today would no longer exist,” she said.


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I am pleased with the link at the bottom, which shows that CNN is airing this story, that we Vets already know all too well...the VA is shredding or hiding our documents, and then denying our claims based upon insufficient evidence.

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  • HadIt.com Elder

All the more reason why I think that all claims, etc., should be filed by computer, using the VONAPPS system. No more paper, period. And, NO, the VA employees would NOT be able to "erase" your claim(s), not unless the system admin allowed them to......and they aren't going to do that, because THEN we'd KNOW who to blame, who's feet should be held to the fire.

We gotta "mature" this archaic system......heck, how long has it been since we've had PC's?

I got my first one just so's I could play "PacMan", how many years ago? Now I have, sitting on my desk here, not one but two, and a laptop in it's case by the door.

Surely someone in the VA can figure out how to make 'em work, ya think?

Here's some 'puter trivia for ya. The first space flights were carried out with a computer that was a "stripped down" Commodore 64........a scary thought, nowdays....a great leap forward in technology 40 years ago! I now wear a watch that has greater computer power than the Commodore 64.

The VA is still USING a Commodore 64, I THINK!

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  • HadIt.com Elder

"Larry is right..the VA would not be allowed to delete a Veterans claim unless the Systems Administrator allowed them to do so"?

Instructed to do so would be more accurate.

The VA doesn't operate dysfunctionally. It operates by design.

Year after year, veteran after veteran, bonus after bonus. Theres very few error's when it comes to the Gov's money. The only time theres a problem with the system is when an employee gets a bad case of guilt. The media shows a few quick clips on it & it's forgottin untill the new time.

Ever see an indepth, down & dirty artical on TV covering the VA with followups? No & you won't either.

It's like trying to get Carl Rove or Alberto Gonzalas to testify & tell the truth. Even if they did, do you really expect a trial & conviction?

Like all administrations, they sweep it under the rug. This one will be no different with the VA.

When it comes to "electronic records", I believe the VA will quickly learn how to cut & paste or alter records just as easily as they do the paper ones. If theres a will theres a way.

What they earn, plus benies to cheat vets now, won't stop just because of electronic paperwork.

Your paperwork will never make it to the scanner.

The scanner was broke that day. Someone forgot to plug it in. There was a scanner convention & everybody was gone. The guy who operates the scanner was out for vacation that month, etc, etc.

When this changes over, call the AMC to get the latist BS why your records isn't in the system. They will have a long list of excuses already made up & waiting for you.

Edited by allan
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  • HadIt.com Elder

I would like to know why in the computer age our C-Files are not scanned into a online system so that clail files would not have to be shipped all over the country when you move or file an appeal. People still have their entire C-Files disappear. It is crazy in this day and age that all the C-files are not backed up on disc or tape or something besides just sitting there in a box at the VARO's warehouse. Someone could just drop your file in the shredder and you would disappear.

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  • HadIt.com Elder

"Someone could just drop your file in the shredder and you would disappear."

That kinda reminds me of the old "punch cards" at the dawning of the computer age:

WARNING: Do NOT bend, fold, staple, mutilate or othewise mishandle this here card!

I've begun to feel folded, bent, stapled and mutilated (or, maybe that's "mutated")!

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