House hearing to focus on VA disability claims backlog
Testimony from the VA Office of Inspector General released ahead of a House committee hearing on Monday indicates that the agency is still facing challenges in reducing a backlog of disability claims.
From The Hill:
Despite claims by the Veterans Affairs Department that it has made significant progress in reducing its enormous disability claims backlog, the agency’s internal watchdog says the handling of such requests remains troubled.
The VA Office of Inspector General found that thousands of cases were subtracted from the VA case log even though people were still working on them, according to testimony that will be provided to the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee at a hearing on Monday night.
Investigators also discovered that the VA did not follow up with veterans who were granted temporary 100 percent disability payments. The VA was supposed to follow up to see if their health had improved. Because it didn’t, the VA has overpaid veterans about $85 million since 2012, and could potentially over-pay another $370 million in the next five years.
The agency’s Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA), the office responsible for providing various kinds of monetary compensation to those who served in uniform, “continues to face challenges to ensure veterans receive timely and accurately [sic] benefits and services,” Linda Halliday, an assistant inspector general at the department, will say in testimony to the panel.
This comes of course as the VA is already under fire after a recent audit revealed long wait times for many veterans’ first appointments with a VA facility, while even more veterans who enrolled never received appointments at all.
And a previous review found that the practice of secret waiting lists to hide actual wait times was a problem that was systemic across the VA network of facilities.
The House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs is expected to hear testimony from two panels Monday evening on the agency’s efforts to tackle its backlog of disability claims. That hearing is scheduled to begin at 7:30p ET.
The LA Times recently reported that the caseload for VA disability claims has risen sharply in recent years. That report indicated that a number of factors have contributed to the expansion of enrollment numbers, including various policy changes that have expanded eligibility for certain conditions, increased efforts in encouraging veterans to apply, and the addition of Afghanistan and Iraq war veterans to the rolls.
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