House chairman: Obama administration ‘obstructed’ review of veteran benefit program

Patrick Howley Political Reporter
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The House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs chairman Rep. Jeff Miller accused the Obama administration of obstructing the work of a veteran group trying to investigate unprocessed veteran benefit claims.

The Obama administration’s Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) blocked American Legion experts from conducting a full review of the VBA office in Seattle late last month, according to a letter Rep. Miller sent to VA Secretary Eric Shinseki obtained by The Daily Caller.

Miller is now mandating that House Veterans Affairs Committee staff accompany the American Legion on future VA review assignments “until further notice.”

The obstruction allegedly occurred during one of the American Legion’s Regional Office Action Review (ROAR) visits, a 15-year practice. As The Daily Caller has extensively reported, hundreds of thousands of veteran benefit claims remain backlogged at VA, leaving veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and other ailments waiting for due payments. (RELATED: Obama administration’s backlog of veteran benefit claims increased over holidays)

“It was brought to my attention that the Veterans Benefits Administration has newly obstructed the Legion’s ROAR efforts,” Miller wrote. “At a recent site visit to the Seattle Regional Office, it was alleged that Allison A. Hickey, Under Secretary for Benefits, limited the Legion’s ability to fruitfully conduct its visit, converse with claims processing staff, and thoroughly review disability benefits claims in accordance with its long standing practice.”

“Consequently, effective immediately and until further notice, staff of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs will attend and report upon all ROAR visits of The American Legion,” Miller wrote. “The recent actions of the Veterans Benefits Administration are perceived as deliberate and retaliatory, and I caution that any obstruction to external review of VBA’s work product is contrary to both transparency and government accountability; it will not be tolerated under a pretense of workload management.”

“I will continue to monitor this situation,” Miller wrote.

Allison A. Hickey became Under Secretary for Benefits in June 2011 after working for Accenture, the consulting company that now serves as prime contractor for the Obamacare website.

UPDATE: VA said in a statement that “VA is reviewing the issues raised in Chairman Miller’s letter related to the American Legion, and will respond to his office.”

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