VA benefits offices changed dates, destroyed documents to meet productivity goal

Veterans Affairs (VA) healthcare facilities weren't the only ones trying to dupe the system. The Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) changed dates on claims to make them appear new, manipulated data and destroyed thousands of claims documents to meet production goals, according to testimony at a House Veterans' Affairs Committee hearing Monday night.

Witnesses claim the VBA sacrificed quality to eliminate the claims backlog, and punished anyone who spoke out against that mentality, according to testimony, Nextgov reported.

VA offices in Philadelphia; Baltimore; Little Rock, Arkansas; Los Angeles; and Oakland, California, offices changed dates on overlooked and misplaced files with the date they were found rather than submitted, Linda Halliday, VA assistant inspector general for audits and evaluations, told the committee, according to the article.

These actions came after a memo went out ordering offices to update claims with the date they were discovered, rather than filed, however veterans compensation starts from the date the claim was originally filed, not discovered, Allison Hickey, the VA's undersecretary for benefits, testified, according to the article. She also testified that 96 boxes of claims may have ultimately been shredded after the paper files were scanned into the Veterans Benefits Management System.

However, Hickey also testified that claims backlog dropped 55 percent from 611,000 in March 2013 to 275,000 this week, Nextgov reported, to which committee Chairman Jeff Miller (R-Fla.) responded, "I don't believe anyone [from VBA] is telling me the truth about the claims backlog."

The inspector general reported this week that 9,500 documents and 80 claims folder were discovered inappropriately stored in a supervisor's office, which delays processing those claims.

To learn more:
- here's the hearing information
- read the article
- check out the inspector general's report
- here's the VBA claims data

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