New VA Secretary Not Improving Agency's Reliability
Sworn into the post of Secretary of Veterans’ Affairs last July in the wake of the VA Medical Center false-waitlist scandal that cost veterans their lives and former secretary Eric Shinseki his job, Robert A. McDonald vowed to impose more accountability and honor at the Department of Veterans’ Affairs. However, shortly after taking office Secretary McDonald not only lied about his military service to a homeless veteran but also lied about the number of VA employees who lost their jobs as a result of the embarrassing healthcare waitlist scandal. McDonald told a TV interviewer that “60 people were fired who manipulated wait times,” but the actual number, reported by the New York Times, “is much smaller still: at most, three.”
A new report, released last month, reveals that not only has McDonald not held VA employees accountable for misconduct, similar problems (including an alleged 13,000 ignored disability claims at the Oakland VA Regional Office) have continued under his watch. Indeed, an internal VA memo (known as “Fast Letter 13-10”) was exposed last month that, according to the Washington Times, “allowed bureaucrats to cook their books and assert that they were answering diligently President Obama’s call to reduce the backlog of veterans’ benefits claims…[which] deliberately resulted in making the agency appear it was delivering services and benefits to veterans faster than it really was.”
The internal memo was shared within the VA in May 2013 and, as the aforementioned Washington Times article states, “ordered workers to put the current date on benefits claims that were sometimes more than a year old” to make it seem that the VA disability claims backlog was shrinking.
The VA Inspector General, in discussing the memo, said ““By design, the guidance contained in Fast Letter 13-10 was flawed, as it required staff to adjust the dates of claims for unadjudicated claims found in claims folder to reflect a current date. As such, the reliability of all performance measures related to [VA] timeliness measures for processing claims becomes unreliable.”
Almost a year into Secretary McDonald’s tenure as head of the Department of Veterans’ Affairs, it is damning for the VA Inspector General to assess the agency’s performance regarding timeliness of processing disability claims – essentially the agency’s biggest problem – as “unreliable.” Not only that, but Secretary McDonald’s request to Congress for a larger VA healthcare budget, just days after Fast Letter 13-10 was exposed, was also bad timing because of the news, in March, that VA had paid a senior manager $288,000 in “relocation” expenses for moving from Washington to Philadelphia, prompting complaints from as high up as Senator Bob Casey (D-PA). At $2,086 per mile, that must have been some expensive gas.
At the office of Attorney Sean Kendall, we spend every day not only helping veterans fight for the disability benefits they deserve (for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Total Disability Based On Unemployability, chemical exposure, etc.) but also making sure that VA officials, particularly those at notoriously unreliable Regional Offices such as Philadelphia, Baltimore and Oakland, are held accountable on a daily basis so that no disability claim or appeal is ignored.
If you need help with your VA disability claim or simply have any questions regarding the claims process, giveour office a call at 877-629-1712.
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