VCS Calls on VA Leadership to ‘right the ship’ at St. Petersburg VA regional office

(Veterans for Common Sense – Aug. 31, 2015) –  A new report by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) inspector general found serious errors in one in every five of a sample of veterans’ disability claims processed by the VA regional office in St. Petersburg, Florida.

According to the VA inspectors, 19 percent of the 90 claims sampled were in error, resulting in 54 overpayments, underpayments, and other errors.  The office processes disability claims for veterans from the entire state of Florida, which with 1.5 million veterans has the third most veterans of among the 50 states.

According to the McClatchyDC story (“Florida office cited for errors handling veterans’ disability claims,” Aug. 31, 2015, Chris Adams reporting):

“Despite improvements in recent months, agency watchdogs said the report shows the VA still has a long way to go.

“‘The countless veterans whose claims and medical files have been lost, never processed, inappropriately denied, underpaid and overpaid will continue to suffer until VA leadership in Washington steps in and takes serious steps to right the ship at this badly broken VA regional office in St. Petersburg,’ said Anthony Hardie of Bradenton, Fla., who is director of the national advocacy organization Veterans for Common Sense.

“Likewise, U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, a Republican who represents the Bradenton and Sarasota areas, said in a statement, ‘It’s obvious much work needs to be done to ensure our veterans are getting the care they need and deserve.’”

The Bay Pines VA Regional Office in St. Petersburg has been the subject of numerous critical reports in recent months.

A May 15, 2014 VA Inspector General report found that the St. Petersburg office had serious issues with veterans’ claims records, including records stored haphazardly with many lost and misfiled records, unopened mail, and serious issues with date-stamping newly received claims documentation.

On January 30, 2015, McClatchyDC reported on an initiative by two Florida Congressmen seeking answers on the St. Petersburg VA’s “unacceptably long” delays in processing veterans’ disability claims.  (McClatchyDC, “Congressmen push VA for answers on ‘unacceptably long’ delays in Fla.,”  Jan. 30, 2015, Chris Adams reporting).  VCS was quoted as saying, “Veterans who are waiting on their claims to be approved should not have to suffer through the incompetence of the St. Pete regional office,” and noted the problems in the St. Petersburg office have existed for years.

On August 17, 2015, a scathing VA inspector general report cited the St. Petersburg VA regional office for serious filing errors, unopened mail containing sensitive veterans’ claims documentation, and unrecorded claims documents found in shred bins.

The McClatchyDC news bureau serves 29 newspapers in 14 states and has 40 million readers monthly.

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Read the full VA Inspector General report: (“Veterans Benefits Administration: Inspection of VA Regional Office, St. Petersburg, Florida,” VA-OIG 15-00001-436, Aug. 25, 2015

Read the full McClatchy DC news story:  “Florida office cited for errors handling veterans’ disability claims,” Aug. 31, 2015, Chris Adams reporting

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