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Miller faults VBA ‘retaliatory’ tactics vs. Legion

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Miller faults VBA ‘retaliatory’ tactics vs. Legion
House Veterans Affairs Chairman Rep. Jeff Miller is assigning HVAC staff members to accompany Legion ROAR teams and report on their visits to VA regional offices. (Photo by Tom Strattman)

Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., pulled no punches in a Feb. 14 letter sent to Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary Eric Shinseki. He accused the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) of obstructing the work of an American Legion team of experts during its recent visit to the Seattle VA Regional Office.

The Jan. 21-24 visit was part of the Legion’s 15-year-old Regional Office Action Review (ROAR) program, which evaluates claims processing at VA regional offices nationwide and offers recommendations for improvement.

Miller, chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs (HVAC), wrote that VBA’s recent actions "are perceived as deliberate and retaliatory, and I caution that any obstruction to external review of VBA’s work product is contrary to both transparency and government accountability; it will not be tolerated under a pretense of workload management.

"Moreover, actions taken to frustrate the reviews of The American Legion are hostile to both the mission of the (VA) and the interests of our Nation’s veterans."

Effective immediately, Miller is assigning HVAC staff members to accompany Legion ROAR teams and report on their visits to VA regional offices.

Miller noted that VBA allegedly "obstructed the Legion’s ROAR efforts" in Seattle and "limited the Legion’s ability to fruitfully conduct its visit, converse with claims processing staff, and thoroughly review disability benefits claims in accordance with its long-standing practice." 

Verna Jones, director of The American Legion’s Veterans Affairs & Rehabilitation Division, said that, until recently, relations between VA and the Legion have been essentially positive. "As an organization that helps veterans and their families every day, we place great value upon our relationship with VA. Are we always going to agree on things such as the accuracy of claims processing? No. Does that mean we should stop working together for the good of our veterans? Of course not."

Jones alluded to Legion testimony at a Dec. 4, 2013, congressional hearing that contradicted VA’s published figures of 90-plus percent for its degree of accuracy in processing disability claims for veterans. The Legion testified that its own accuracy figures compiled from ROAR reviews were substantially lower.

Miller mentioned the Legion’s testimony in his letter to Shinseki, indicating that "VA’s accuracy statistics are not consistent with the Legion’s review of recently adjudicated claims; in the past year, 55 percent of claims reviewed by the Legion were identified as having errors...."

Jones said The American Legion remains committed to helping VA improve its system for claims processing, which includes improving the performance of the Legion’s own accredited representatives who help veterans nationwide.

"It’s a learning process for both the VBA and the Legion," Jones said. "We go to the regional offices, help identify the best practices, identify the problems, and offer recommendations on how to make the entire process even better. But we need access to the claims files, to the claims adjudicators, and we need to do our work in tandem with the VA."

The American Legion took a leading role in helping VA with its Fully Developed Claims program, which can dramatically cut the time it takes for a benefits claim to be processed and adjudicated. "We know the backlog is a perennial problem," Jones said, "and we want to keep working with VA to bring it back down – through our ROAR visits, through fully developed claims, whatever it takes." 

Miller wrote to Shinseki that The American Legion’s efforts are parallel to those of VA, and that "the Legion’s commitment to quality outcome is a force multiplier to what should be VA’s true goal, improving the Department’s ability to serve and honor America’s veterans."

Currently, The American Legion is assisting more than 720,000 veterans across the country in filing their VA claims.

Jones said The American Legion’s ROAR teams are tentatively planning to conduct reviews at VA regional offices in North Carolina and New York.

 

 

 

 

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Michael R. Myers

February 20, 2014 - 7:15pm

My claim from 12-27-2010 is still not worked properly. I filled & filed the required forms and they still ask for the very same forms for 3 years. They had permission to contact all medical facilities to see my information, and the provisionally closed my case on 04-30-2013 without any records. This year I took the option of collecting those records and sent them to VA, who marked them as UNSOLICITED after they requested them so many times! VA in Seattle is not inefficient - it's NONFUNCTIONAL!! And provisional claims are counted as closed even though the aren't. Sure wish the IG Inspectors good hunting in Seattle Regional Office of the VA!!!

Rafael Rivera

February 20, 2014 - 5:01pm

I just receive an answer to a claim from dec.122012 ,which they gave me 20 percent but kept it at 60, which was the percentage that I already have.The VA told me that if my case wasmore serious they will give me 40percent.The problem is that they don't read here in PR.Ihad a tumor in my liver with hepatitis c, which was removed and they found cancer and they working to get me a liver transplant.but since ,I was in Vietnam war they is not seriuo enough.

vetsforvets inc

February 19, 2014 - 3:44pm

MR OBAMA WHEN ARE YOU GOING TO FIR SEC SHENISIKI HE IS WORTHLESS TO VETS

Elpidio M. Osteria

February 19, 2014 - 3:34pm

If you are looking for a clear cut case of multiple errors in the adjudication of cases, let me offer my case being process by the San Diego VA Regional Office. Here are the list of errors committed: 1. Low level of aid and Attendance benefit awarded in spite of C&P examination findings which are contrary to their claim. 2. None payment of awarded of SMC - K for lost of function of both buttocks published on June 9, 2011 and with an effective date of August 19, 2009. 3. None payment initially of COLA of 1.7% for 2013 but eventually corrected after 7 months with the intervention of the office of Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez. 4. Published Statement of Case states that they see no evidences to grant a higher level of Aid and Attendance. However, the closing statement claims that on account of the findings of lost of functions of both feet, veteran is entitle to a higher level of Aid and Attendance benefits under letter M. As a matter of admission of error, they started compensating me under letter M at the time they corrected the COLA of 1.7% for 2013. 5. After they published the Statement of Case with the conflicting statement about the lost of functions of both feet, I filed for another SMC - K for the lost of function of both feet. This is number 3 SMC - K, however it has been over 2 years now with no decision. 6. My case started in Aug.2009 and I am now on 4 years and 6 months in waiting just for them to implement the corrections.

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