Report: No ‘evidence of planning’ from Obama administration to help veterans receive benefits

Patrick Howley Political Reporter
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The Obama administration’s Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has no long-term plan to correct the errors that have left hundreds of thousands of veterans waiting months to receive benefits, despite President Obama’s State of the Union vow to fix the problem.

“We’ll keep slashing that backlog, so our veterans receive the benefits they’ve earned, and our wounded warriors receive the health care, including the mental health care, that they need,” Obama said in last week’s State of the Union address.

VA’s backlog of severely delayed claims “still represents over 50 percent of the claims waiting to be processed at the VA,” according to a new report compiled by the group Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), despite VA’s recent hiring of new staffers to work on the backlog.

“While there has been some progress to decrease the backlog, there is nothing to support which of these initiatives are working and which are not, nor is there evidence of planning beyond FY 2015. The VA needs established mechanisms to measure the effectiveness of each of these initiatives to plan for continual improvements to the process,” said the report.

“The backlog may end in FY 2015, but the disability compensation process will continue. If the VA does not learn from its mistakes, it is bound to repeat them,” according to the report.

VA’s backlog of severely delayed benefit claims waiting more than 125 days increased at the beginning of the new year to more than 400,000. Veterans suffering from post traumatic stress disorder and Agent Orange exposure are among those still left waiting for benefits.

“A lot of claims that have been sitting around at VA for more than a year or two were not being finished,” IAVA legislative associate Nick McCormick told The Daily Caller based on his organization’s review of VA processing facilities, even though VA often “had what they needed to finish them.”

“A lot of veterans are giving up hope of hearing back.”

McCormick stressed that VA also needs to “incentivize quality” in its rush to process backlogged claims to minimize political embarrassment.

“A lot of veterans believe they’re being low-balled on these claims, just so VA can say we’re flying through these claims,” McCormick said, noting the preponderance of VA’s processing errors.

Additionally, many veteran claims were transferred from VA offices in Baltimore and Philadelphia last year to the VA office in Wilmington, Deleware and other Northeast VA offices, burdening the Wilmington office.

VA did, however, manage to prevent bedridden veterans from hearing Christmas carols or receiving gifts wrapped in Christmas-themed wrapping paper during the 2013 holiday season.

As the crisis continues, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are refusing to excuse VA. The U.S. House of Representatives Monday passed an amended bipartisan resolution introduced by House Veterans Affairs Committee chairman Rep. Jeff Miller imposing a five-year ban on performance bonuses for VA executives, among other provisions. The bill realizes Miller’s recent statement that Congress would be forced to take “legislative action” to correct the problem if the Obama administration fails to hold VA accountable.

The bill passed with 390 yeas, no nays, and 41 abstentions.

VA did not immediately return a request for comment.

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