Friday, March 06, 2009
Unopened claims letters hidden at VA offices »
Posted By berkeley 1 day, 10 hours ago in News
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.