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Editorial: VA bungles not-so-quick fix

Plagued with a huge backlog of disability benefit claims for years, the Department of Veterans Affairs responded by approving tens of thousands of claims without knowing whether they were valid. With the nation reeling from a litany of VA abuses, the bureaucrats appear to have been rubber-stamping unreviewed claims in what could be seen as a “not on my desk anymore” knee-jerk reaction.

It could cost taxpayers about $371 million over five years if not reined in. That’s a remedy?

And that’s not all. You really can’t make these up:

⋄  Mail related to disability claims languished in bins for three years at regional offices in Philadelphia and Baltimore. An employee at the VA’s Pension Management Center in Philadelphia told a congressional committee mail routinely “sat in boxes untouched for years.”

⋄  After VA officials in Washington ordered a backlog of claims older than 125 days reduced, the Philadelphia office started changing the dates of claims older than six weeks to make them look fresh.

⋄  In Baltimore, an employee stored about 8,000 documents, including claims, unprocessed mail and Social Security information, in his office “for an extensive period of time.”


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• And in a finding tailor-made for the late-night monologues, spot inspections revealed errors in one in four claims involving traumatic brain injury.

These abuses occurred despite efforts over the past four years to streamline the process, raising the question: Can these people get anything right? By definition a fix should not make things worse.

This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.