» VA Official Assures Skeptical Senators That Pace, Quality of Agency Work Has Improved

VA Official Assures Skeptical Senators That Pace, Quality of Agency Work Has Improved

Northville, MI (Law Firm Newswire) January 24, 2014 - Allison A. Hickey, the Under Secretary for Benefits at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), has testified that benefits processing has improved at the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA).

Legal Help for Veterans is a law firm helping veterans get the benefits they deserve.

On December 11, 2013, Hickey, spelled out the progress she claims the VBA has made. She led those claims with the assertion that the VBA had reduced its backlog of claims by 36 percent since March. However, Hickey’s upbeat pronouncements did not impress some members of the less-than-credulous Senate Veterans Affairs Committee.

The VA has accumulated a backlog of 400,000 benefits claims, and that fact certainly hung over the Senate proceedings. Hickey admitted that her agency had significant ground to reclaim, but she also averred that the backlog would dwindle through 2014 — and is on track to disappear by 2015.

“We know there is much more work to be done to reach our goal of eliminating the disability claims backlog in 2015,” Hickey said. “But I’m encouraged that the improved tools and processes we’ve put in place so far are having a real impact, so that we may better serve our nation’s veterans, their survivors and their families.”

The “tools and processes” to which Hickey referred are some of the elements of the VBA’s transformation plan. Those measures include blueprints for retraining and reorganizing the agency’s workforce, for adopting more efficient business methods and for instituting new online technologies.

Hickey stated that the reforms will soon translate into a system less reliant on paper and more capable of shepherding claims smoothly and quickly. She also pointed to a number of VA achievements during her testimony. She emphasized that the backlog of claims pending for more than 125 days has fallen by 36 percent since March and noted:

o A 22 percent drop in the pending inventory of claims
o An increase in claim-level accuracy (from 83 percent in 2011 to 90 percent today)
o An increase in medical-issue-level accuracy (to almost 97 percent today)
o The complete processing of 99.9 percent of all claims that had been pending for more than two years
o The complete processing of 97 percent of all claims that had been pending for more than one year through October 31st, 2013
o The digitalized formatting of more than 360 million paper claim images for electronic processing
o The establishment of more than 3.2 million veteran, service member and family member accounts in eBenefits, the Defense Department/VA gateway for monitoring VA benefits.

Despite the Under Secretary’s glowing account of the VA’s accomplishments, several senators were unmoved, including the committee chairman, Senator Bernie Sanders, I-Vt. Sanders criticized the VA’s dismal record on processing appeals, which has average wait times of 866 days. Sanders demanded a report from the VA on the ways in which the agency is improving its appeals process.

In addition, some senators disputed the 90 percent claim-level accuracy rate Hickey cited, with Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., saying that an American Legion review pegged the rate at 55 percent.

Hickey stood behind her agency’s figures. “Senator Burr, it is an apples and oranges discussion,” Hickey said. “There is a very different way others look at the issue than we do. They are right for the way they look at it and we are right for the way we measure it.”

Legal Help for Veterans, PLLC
41700 West Six Mile Road, Suite 101
Northville, MI 48168
Toll Free Phone: 800.693.4800

  • Is the VA doing enough to deal with the relocation scam?
    The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is planning to suspend the Veterans Benefits Administration’s (VBA) acting chief Danny Pummill for 15 days without pay for permitting two employees to abuse the agency’s relocation process. Kimberly Graves and Diana Rubens manipulated the VBA’s hiring system for their own benefit. The inspector general’s September report claimed they […]
  • Former VA employee spends stolen hospital funds on gambling and sex
    The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has been struggling with corruption and mismanagement, whether it is long patient wait times at VA facilities or the suspension of an official in the recent employee relocation scam. On April 6 a former VA supervisor was given a 15-month prison sentence for stealing funds from a VA hospital. […]
  • How mindfulness training can help veterans with PTSD
    Veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) often face challenges when trying to manage their symptoms. Traumatic memories keep replaying in their minds in a continuous loop, according to researchers. Traditional forms of treatment may not always prove effective for all veterans. A new study shows mindfulness training may serve as a promising way for […]
  • Wounded Warrior Project attempts to recover from spending scandal
    The Wounded Warrior Project (WWP) is struggling to regain the trust of its donors and veterans in the aftermath of a CBS News report criticizing the organization’s spending policies. The veterans charity group fired its CEO Steven Nardizzi and COO Al Giordano in early March. The action was taken in response to a CBS News […]

See other news sources publishing this article. BETA | Tags: , , , , ,



Get headlines from Law Firm Newswire sent right to your inbox.

* indicates required