Why VA's Plan Won't Work: American Legion Claims VA employees can't pass open-book Test
As most people know, the VA has a benefits claim backlog of over 400,000 cases and there are reportedly over 1,000 homeless GWOT veterans. The VA's latest plan to reduce this backlog is to hire more people and have them trained by the VA's best claim handlers, known as VSR's or adjudicators.
Sound plausible right?
However, the VA has already told Congress that it takes from two to four years to get these people trained to do this job. This means that nothing will actually happen to the amount of backlogged cases until at best the year 2009. The second flaw in this plan is illustrated in the news clip below, which shows the quality of work performed by the current generation of the VA's best and brightest.
News Channel 8 presented the Veterans Administration with X-rays showing the bullet from an M-16 still lodged in Riddle's thigh. We gave the VA this letter from Riddle's sergeant who was with him when he was shot in Bagdhad's Green Zone two years ago and another one from Private Allan Frahm who was with Riddle in an army hospital just after he was wounded.
But the VA has denied Riddle, who lives in Southington, service related benefits not once but twice, saying it had no record he was shot while in Iraq.
However Congress passed a law many years ago - that is still on the books – that covers this exact situation. Title 38 of the United States Code 3.102 states:
§3.102 Reasonable doubt. When, after careful consideration of all procurable and assembled data, a reasonable doubt arises regarding service origin, the degree of disability, or any other point, such doubt will be resolved in favor of the claimant. Mere suspicion or doubt as to the truth of any statements submitted, as distinguished from impeachment or contradiction by evidence or known facts, is not justifiable basis for denying the application of the reasonable doubt doctrine if the entire complete record otherwise warrants invoking this doctrine.
This is the law -- not a suggestion!
How is it that this law was either ignored or completely unknown to the person/s that decided this veterans' case? According to Congressional testimony by Steve Smithson for the American Legion on Sept 13 2006:
(The VA) conducted an open book (pilot) job skill certification test for VSRs (claim processors) several years ago in which the pass rate was extremely low (approximately 23 percent).
Even more alarming than the low-test scores was the fact that those who took the test had several years of experience in the position and were considered to be proficient.
In May of 2006, after employees underwent 20 hours of remedial training then re-tested -- the pass rate was only 42%. On an open book test! If this is the "experienced" group of employees that will be training the new hires, then this is truly a case of the blind leading the blind.