VAOIG Reports on Document Date-Switching at Four Regional Offices

VA Watchdog

February 28, 2009 – After VA Watchdog dot Org broke the story about the VA shredding documents critical to a veteran’s disability claim, it wasn’t long before other unacceptable practices came to light… mail rooms piled high with unopened correspondence and date-switching on documents.

For a complete background, you can find all shredder and document mishandling stories are here…

Of note was the New York Regional Office where it was reported that VA employees were told by managers to change the dates on documents to make their claim handling statistics appear better than they were.

A number of top managers were removed (relocated or retired) and the VA’s Office of Inspector General (VAOIG) investigated four other Regional Offices to see if the practice was widespread.

Now we have that report… and it’s not what was expected.

The VAOIG report says “inaccurate dates were unintentional errors” and “no veterans or their beneficiaries received incorrect or delayed benefit payments.”

So, the report seems to say that New York was just a bad apple in the Big Apple and the other VAROs are in compliance with document dating requirements.

And, this report will play a large part in the Congressional document mishandling hearing on Tuesday, March 3, 2009.  More on that hearing here…

This just seems a bit too convenient…

So… your thoughts are appreciated.

Report information below:

Audit of VA Regional Office Compensation and Pension Benefit Claim Receipt Dates

Report Number 09-00189-81, 2/27/2009 | Summary | Report (PDF)
Summary is posted below:

Audit of VA Regional Office Compensation and Pension Benefit Claim Receipt Dates

The Office of Inspector General (OIG) conducted a review to evaluate the accuracy of VA regional office (VARO) compensation and pension (C&P) benefit claim receipt dates. We initiated the review after the Veterans Benefits Administration’s (VBA) Administrative Investigation Board concluded that VARO New York intentionally reported inaccurate receipt dates for 220 (56 percent) of 390 reviewed claims. The objectives of the review were to determine if (1) other VAROs reported inaccurate claim receipt dates; (2) inaccurate claim receipt dates caused veterans or their beneficiaries to receive incorrect benefit payments; and (3) inaccurate claim receipt dates caused VBA to report incorrect claim-processing times to veterans, members of Congress, or other stakeholders.

Our review indicated that the inaccurate dates were unintentional errors that did not significantly affect the four VAROs’ fiscal year (FY) 2008 average claim-processing times. VARO Boston was the only exception where we projected an understatement of average processing time for the sampled rating claims by 4 days. Of the 94,920 claims the four VAROs completed during FY 2008, we projected that 88,639 (93.4 percent) claim receipt dates were accurate; 4,520 (4.7 percent) were inaccurate; and 1,761 (1.9 percent) were not adequately documented in the claim folders and we could not evaluate the accuracy of these dates. While all four VAROs reported inaccurate claim receipt dates, none of the rates came close to the 56 percent rate VBA reported for the VARO New York review. VARO Albuquerque reported a 5 percent inaccuracy rate, VARO Boston reported a 10 percent inaccuracy rate, VARO San Diego reported a 3 percent inaccuracy rate, and VARO Winston-Salem reported a 4 percent inaccuracy rate. Even though all four VAROs reported inaccurate benefit claim receipt dates, no veterans or their beneficiaries received incorrect or delayed benefit payments as correct claim receipt dates documented in claim folders were used as effective dates of benefit awards. OIG made three recommendations to improve the accuracy and adequacy of C&P benefit claim receipt dates. The Under Secretary for Benefits concurred with the report’s conclusion and recommendations. We consider the planned actions provided by the Under Secretary acceptable and will follow up on their implementation.

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