Legion: Fix VA’s process, not priorities

Legion: Fix VA’s process, not priorities
Peter Gaytan, center, executive director of the Legion's Washington office, appeared on CNN's "State of the Union" to discuss VA's claims backlog last weekend.

The national debate over the Department of Veterans Affairs disability claims backlog has been raging since the issue dominated speeches at The American Legion’s 53rd Washington Conference in late February.

On March 24, VA Secretary Eric Shinseki addressed the issue during his first television interview in four years on CNN’s "State of the Union" program. That same day, the Legion’s executive director in Washington, Peter Gaytan, weighed in on the same show.

Gaytan told CNN host Candy Crowley that the Legion is working with VA to fix the claims process, and that the crux of the problem is inconsistent performance at VA regional offices around the country. Once problems at those regional offices are addressed, the backlog can be reduced substantially, Gaytan explained.

American Legion National Commander James E. Koutz said the idea of creating another presidential commission – a suggestion made by some other veterans advocates – had little value. "We don’t need a presidential commission to figure out how to solve the backlog," Koutz said. "Adding another layer of bureaucracy won’t get benefits to our veterans any faster."

Koutz added that the ranking of veterans based on their war era does nothing to solve the bigger problem – an inefficient processing system that The American Legion and VA are committed to improving.

"Not only does prioritization based on a war era violate federal law, it imposes value judgments on the wartime service of veterans," Koutz said. "Do we really want to make that kind of call? Is this something that would help to simplify the claims process? We need to honor the service of all veterans by giving them all fair and timely access to the benefits they are due under the law."

The American Legion has more than 2,500 accredited claims representatives across the country who assist veterans in filing their VA disability claims. It also has more than a dozen full-time employees who help veterans appeal claims that have been denied by VA.

Veterans with Apple or Android smart phones can download The American Legion’s Claims Coach app to find the nearest Legion service officer, who can assist with filing a VA claim.

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sergio.howard

April 2, 2013 - 3:06pm

So if the problem is truly inconsist results in the different VA's why don't we do what we always did in the military and have some kind of service training program (you know how we did in Graf, Hohenfels, Airborne, Air Assault, Ranger etc) or just share best practices from the high performers. Lord knows we spent enough on computer systems. They did okay but now we need to use them effectivly.

Radar2e2010

April 1, 2013 - 11:13pm

To add to my previous comment! It is no wonder the claims are backlogged. Look at the size of each record! It takes hours for one record tpo be scanned. The records of active duty are backed-up on ectronic media every week and archived. Soldiers SSN are tracked every transaction they were ever in volved in. So instead of waitinng until the record is scanned at the VA to review it, train thousands of volunteers under oversight of knowledgeable approved VA managers to review the records with approved checklists. Then records which need additional actions can be routed to a higher authority where harder problems can be discussed and resolved. It's not rocket science! Nor does it take a bachelor degree to read a checklist and mark off the parameters required to qualify for VA benefits. We could have everything back on track in a few years! Veterans are the best problem solvers, you'll ever find! My answer is "Let us veterans be involved in planning, organizing, and streamlining of process of Veteran Affairs. We will ensure it is done right and obtain the best results or die trying! I would never let my brother be left behind!

Radar2e2010

April 1, 2013 - 10:56pm

It is sad to see how veterans are treated by our government officials. The President and all his so called highly-educated cabinet have no idea how to manage an operation as complex as the VA. Converting records to electronic media did not not fix any problems in the military and it won't fix the VA situation. They wasted millions of dollars each year for the past six years. Installing a totally automated web-based system which has no human oversight. When a error occurs there is nobody to detect it or personnaly lok in to fixing the simple document error. Instead the errors pile-up until the "black hole" is so large the system breaks down. THEN someone takes notice. But all productivity comes to astand still becaus e there isn't anyone present who actually knows the details of how the process works. I spent 23 years in the USAF solving problems that database managers and number crushers in Washington DC forced down the throats of the active under the guise of progress! I also was a receords manger when Federal courts demanded all personnel records be kept and converted to electronic media. What a nightmare and waste of hundreds of manhours. The personnel scanned documents but they did not even know what they were used for. The VA personnel are under-trained and have very little authority to resolve problems at the lower levels. This is a major part of the problem. Too many redunant checks and managers in aprocess will reduce efficiency immensely. Our government is great in implementing inefficient processes until money runs short then they assemble special committes and teams to find the fraud, waste, and abuse. But the abuse starts at the top at Washington D.C where the legislation and politicians like they care about the lower class of people who put them in power. The solution is simple! There are millions of records backlogged then we need to combine the volunteer veteran-support orgs like VFW and American Legion and government employee forces work with local VA management to resolve simple document and category errors at the lowest levels and reduce stalls in the system. There are millions of veteran and civilian volunteers who would attend any training necessary to help reduce the backlog and ensure our "brothers/sisters in-arms" get the benefits and care they earned.

MikeKellogg1966

March 30, 2013 - 2:42pm

Pretty simple. Take 50% of the workers for the VA and tell them if the backlog is not complete in one week, you are out of a job. Obama put Shinseki in charge to clean this up. He failed andthe current administration has failed our warriors. Start at the top and fire Shinseki. If he still was the Army CoS and failed to meet mission, he would have been relieved, so get rid of him. Organizations take on the dispositions of their leaders. I have had a claim with the VA since 3 Mar 2012 and keep getting told the same bs. We are working on it. Typical Governement worker bs. Fire 50% of them and make the rest of them work!

callita56

March 30, 2013 - 2:56am

I filed my claim 4 times back in 1988 and was denied all 4 times and again in 2003 and was granted a pension 4 4 months that I never got and now I have finally heard from them on yesterday to send them more evidents of my loss of hearing. I can't hear like normal people since I was in the Army back in 1974. What more can I do.

rfremin1

March 29, 2013 - 8:50am

All this mess at the board backlog is because they are too busy trying to take care of the illegals that are overwelming this country.All this thanks to that DUD in the Whitehouse.

mjb

March 29, 2013 - 8:25am

iT,S NOT only the veterans claims that are backloged but the veterans that gave the ultimate, their LIVES and left survivors behind are dealing with the loss of their loved one and the stress of dealing with the VA red tape.

glspas

March 29, 2013 - 7:13am

i am vietnam vet who found out last year my life has had many downfalls due to ptsd it has been one year and all the va sends me is a letter telling me how sorry they are but they are still working on my claim. i have been dealing with this for over 40 years so i guess they just forget veitnam vets. the country didn't like us then and i guess they stil don't

Rick Robol

March 28, 2013 - 7:16pm

I am shocked and saddened to read so many stories of neglect of our fellow veterans. This is unacceptable. The professional politicians in the two party monopoly should be held accountable at election time. If the two party monopoly can raise and spend hundreds of millions of dollars getting themselves re-elected and preventing independents from competing with them, they can surely find the pittance needed to treat those who have served our nation honorably. Enough is enough.

ArmyVet1126

March 28, 2013 - 5:24pm

With alot of troops out of work, I wonder if maybe it was "legal" for them to maybe volunter a day or two week to help out. Not making decisions, just moving the ton of paperwork

chickmagnt311

March 28, 2013 - 6:42pm

Agreed. There are tons of Vets out there who would love to volunteer. And there are tons of volunteers out there qualified to move paperwork. I myself would find time to volunteer to help speed up the backlog. We've all experienced this in one way or another.

hackettroy

March 28, 2013 - 5:21pm

I have never been so discouraged & hurt in my life ! I feel used & abused ! DOD used us to get the job done . Now that we're all broken up & disabled (which we did for the love of our country ) I feel teh VA wants us to just go away ! It looks as though most of us vets are going to wind up unemployed & homeless , thanks to all we've done for our country !

hackettroy

March 28, 2013 - 5:13pm

I HAVE BEEN WAITING FOR A FULL DISABILITY SETTLEMENT FOR OVER 18 MONTHS ! THE USUAL EXCUSE IS " WE'RE SHORTHANDED "! DOD IS QUICK TO HIRE TEMPORARY EMPLOYEES TO SUPPORT ANY CONFLICTS . BUT WHEN IT COMES TO SETTLING THE CASES OF FORMER WAR TIME DISABLED VETS ,WE GET SLAPPED IN THE FACE WITH , "WE'RE SHORT HANDED "! THAT'S RIDICULOUS AT BEST !!!!

mad0mac

March 28, 2013 - 3:06pm

I have filed my first case in 1989 and I have never heard any thing aprox 9 months ago my local rep realized that I had 2 DD214's and asked to see them both. He realized that the DOD had lost 2years of my records and that is why I had never heard anything on my case's when I filed for benefit. It is to easy for them to make excuses and lie that like in my case I heard my records went up in a fire the problem with that is the records fire happened before I was in the military. so it is far time to put up or shut up.I served this country and when I joined I was told as part of my enlistment that I would always have free health care. I have been lied to by the Gov. all my adult life and I am tired of it. I do not believe in this entitlement attitude that I see in this country but I have injury's that have made it impossible for me to work any more that started and are clearly from my military service. and I have been playing one big game for years all because you or someone does not want to do the right thing. all I can say is when it was my time I did!!!

mansel500

March 28, 2013 - 2:43pm

I have had a claim in the system for 3 years. I've been through every appeal you have. But my claim is setting in the american legion office in Washington D.C. I'm told it will not be put back in for review until the 2007,2008 claims are done. "Why" I'am a 20yr vet (Navy).I understand that a process has to be used, but 3 years is way to long that any Vet of our country should have to wait. I'm in my late 50's now,at this rate I'll be dead before this claim is processed.?

Golfer8845

March 28, 2013 - 2:19pm

I serve as a County Veterans Service Officer in Indiana. I keep reading about the VA and DOD working at becoming a PAPERLESS entity. I hope that they don't forget that in most cases the first person a veteran sees in obtaining help in submitting a claim is probably is County Vet Svc Officer. When we submit a claim to the American Legion or another organization those claims are submitted by mail or faxed. I hope this paperless ideal does not forget the local veteran who is try to help other vets.

gambillford

March 28, 2013 - 2:07pm

If this was a for profit company that was conducting these claims they would be all caught up in no time. My biggest issue was not submitting the claim, that was easy. It's after the claim is submitted that it hits a stall stage. I am still waiting to be evaluated from a claim I submitted over 5 months ago. That is just the evaluation part, you know, the part where they accuse you of lying and trying to make your injury not as bad as it seems. That is where the real disconnect is.

sergio.howard

April 2, 2013 - 2:57pm

You are very right about it being fixed if it was for profit. You got some good people trying hard but you have a lot of folks out there just working a 9-5 for th next pay check.

sergio.howard

April 2, 2013 - 3:00pm

just another reason why giving up on the federal and going free enterprise-private industry won't work....what happens to people and programs like this.

mah1013812

March 28, 2013 - 10:30pm

I submitted mine in August and wasn't seen until now. Now being told more appointments are on the way with a wait of up to 2 years before my claim is settled.

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