VA Hands out Millions in Bonuses to Employees while Veterans Left Waiting for Benefits.
R L Anchors
During a recent (March 13, 2007) House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs hearing Congressman John Hall (D-NY) wanted to know if disabled veterans normally had to wait 17 months for their first benefits check from the VA. Unfortunately the answer is no, normally the wait is longer. In fact due to red tape at least one veteran, Frank Fong, is documented as having waited 50 years for his first benefits check (Knight-Ridder news service).
The problems start with the medical evaluation performed by the VA, according to Joel Waldman, Cleveland VA Union President (AFGE). In 2005, Waldman wrote former Congressman Lane Evans a letter detailing some of the chaos,”…more than one third of all exams are inadequate for rating purposes….The veteran’s claims decision-making process is fundamentally flawed without correct VA exams”.
The result is the veteran receiving a denial of claim letter forcing the veteran to appeal. This increases the time disabled veterans wait between apply and receiving benefits. But how common are denials? Congressman Rodriguez (D-TX), seems to answer that question during the hearing when he stated that he tells veterans,”Hey, you’re going to get turned down the first time no matter what…”
But poor exams aren’t the only reason veterans claims are denied.
Waldman underscores the political motivations in denying claims;” It(s)… an often repeated inventory reduction tactic by VA managers…knowing full well the decision is flawed under law…” Therefore automatically denying claims lets,”…VA policy makers boast about the number of claims completed, regardless of due process errors.”
However, some veterans believe their benefits claims were denied due to greed.
In 2005 the VA paid out over $71 million in cash bonuses to employees under their “Performance Awards Program For VBA Field Operations”. For VA Regional Office employees, these cash bonuses are tied to the total number of veterans claims closed. Since the VA employees receive no “production points” for reviewing claim accuracy, quantity overrides quality. And quantity wins awards.
Former VA employee Marsha Madewell was fired after she had complained to Senator Inhofe (R-OK) about the ill effects of the VA “performance awards”, were having on her department. Ms Madewell stated that the performance awards program, “…has resulted in the accuracy and quality of the claims processing to suffer inexcusably. The disregard for quality processing is not harmless, but is adversely affecting the lives of our service men and women. This program has been destructive, exposing selfishness and greed, rewarding bad service and making it almost impossible to give good service.”
Mr. Waldman agrees that veterans are getting poor service for another reason stating,”…veterans…as a whole should have no confidence in receiving a technically correct, legally accurate, and an equitable rating decision when the entire system contains institutionalized, unaddressed fundamental flaws in applying Due Process under law.”