VA Figures Out Ingenious Way To Process Claims: Stuff Them All In A Cabinet And Forget

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Jonah Bennett Contributor
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A government watchdog revealed on Wednesday that a regional Department of Veterans Affairs office in Oakland, Calif., dealt with disability claims the easy way: by stuffing them by the thousands into a filing cabinet and doing absolutely nothing.

After receiving a tipoff from Republican Rep. Doug LaMalfa of California regarding unprocessed claims, the inspector general showed up unannounced at the Oakland office to conduct a review which lasted for two weeks in July of 2014. The IG discovered that the office’s abysmal practices, beginning in the mid-1990s and remaining undiscovered until 2012, weren’t cleaned up at all.

In 2012, an internal Veterans Benefits Administration support team headed over to Oakland to help with operations. What it found was astonishing: about 14,000 veterans’ claims languishing in a file cabinet. Of those claims, 2,155 needed some level of review or action. After a stern correction, the regional office in Oakland promised to create a special team to process the 2,155 claims. But in early 2014, it was again revealed that while the team did in fact look over the claims, many were abandoned in a cart.

Inspectors tried to untangle the mess of paperwork and poor record-keeping at the office in July, but ultimately were unable to determine whether 537 of the claims found in the cart had been processed. In fact, the only reason they were able to find the cart was because the office was under construction.

“As a result, veterans did not receive consideration for benefits to which they may have been entitled,” investigators stated in the report.

In at least one of the cases reviewed, a veteran who needed treatment for PTSD did not receive $3,000 dollars.

But for LaMalfa, the report issued on Wednesday which he originally asked to be conducted just isn’t good enough, since all it amounts to is a recommendation for more training and oversight. “The accountability for why these things happen doesn’t have any clear conclusion,” LaMalfa said, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. “They say all these files were missing, but there’s not enough information to confirm what’s wrong. That’s a self-perpetuating nonsolution. You need to step back and figure out why the information is not there or missing.”

“Who is looking out for the veterans?” he asked.

It’s unclear what happened to the 12,647 other claims that were discovered in the cabinet.

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