Duplicate Payments to Veterans Distress Office Workers a Lot, Supervisors Not So Much

Check out this troubling New York Times story headlined "Double Payments Bedevil Veterans’ Pension System."

What's particularly troubling isn't simply that some problems have crept into a system that pays out $4 billion a year but that supervisors apparently don't care about the misdirected payments. Consider the case of Kristen Ruell, who works for the Veterans Administration in Philadelphia. She saw an extra payment cross her screen for $21,000 in duplicate back pay and reported it to her higher-ups, who shrugged it off.

After seeing the same problem in other claims, Ms. Ruell, who works on a quality review team at a veterans pension management center in Philadelphia, says she raised red flags with her bosses. If she, one of scores of payment authorizers nationwide, was just noticing the duplicate payments, was it not likely that the department had inadvertently overpaid many other people for years?

Two years later, that concern has not been resolved, Ms. Ruell and several other pension management workers say.

The department says duplicate payments are rare — perhaps fewer than 100 a year. A robust system of checks and balances, human and digital, routinely prevents a vast majority of such payments, said David R. McLenachen, the director of the department’s pensions and fiduciary service.

One man's "robust system" is another man's game of kick the can:

One Philadelphia employee, Ryan Cease, whose job for a time included correcting duplicate records, said it could take hours to fix one. Mr. Cease, who says he has found evidence of more than 1,200 duplicate pension records, proposed creating a team to tackle the problem. But supervisors have not responded, he said.

Read the whole thing here.

No one wants to stiff veterans of their hard-earned benefits, but the cavalier attitude toward oversight in the story is disturbing to say the least. Especially when you multiply that potential for misdirected payments by all the agencies in the federal government that are cutting checks.

Another recent sad sack VA scandal: Paying beaucoup bucks for a crappy Patton parody video.

Take a look at what $52,000 will get you as a government contractor. And then pray that our enemies are weak as tea.

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  • John||

    By paying people twice what they are entitled to you are stiffing every other veteran in the system. And what do you want to bet that they are sending extra checks to people who have done nothing to defraud the system and that the DOJ would go after said people in a heartbeat for fraud if they knew about it.

  • Drake||

    Supervisors have had more training and indoctrination to not give a fuck.

  • Night Elf Mohawk||

    She saw an extra payment cross her screen for $21,000 in duplicate back pay and reported it to her higher-ups, who shrugged it off.

    It's not like it's the higher up's money, is it?

  • sarcasmic||

    *ding*

  • Almanian's Evil Twin||

    Why do you hate our brave soldiers, Reason? WHY???!!!1one!!

  • Romulus Augustus||

    Exactly. We are constantly told they represent the best and brightest, are loyal, honrable, etc. etc. so the self-reporting rate when they get a duplicate payment must be darn close to 100%, right? Who needs a fraud detection system when only angels are getting the checks?

  • Ptah-Hotep||

    Who needs a fraud detection system when only angels are getting the checks?

    Most vets I know would indeed return the money if they knew it was not theirs. Can not vouch for all vets of course, just the ones I know.

  • LTC(ret) John||

    I have been overpaid (not for VA benefits, of which I get none) and I damn well went through the process to get it returned.

    It wasn't my money. Trying to shrug off money you did not earn is a form of theft.

  • Whiterun Guard||

    Look, you're not going to get to a $20 trillion (with a T) deficit with just wasteful spending. You've got to have some negligent spending too. Every little bit helps.

  • Drake||

    And if the VA didn't spend their entire budget, they would get less next year.

    So it's a feature, not a bug.

  • Scooby||

    Nitpick- On your click-thru to the WRAMC scandal wiki page- the term "Army Medical Center" in the name means Walter Reed was misadministered by the the US Army Medical Command, not the VA. Misadministration by the VA was a footnote in that particular case.

  • The Late P Brooks||

    A robust system of checks and balances, human and digital, routinely prevents a vast majority of such payments

    "Routinely ignores them" sounds more accurate.

  • tarran||

    When I got out of the Navy, they kept paying me my salary.

    I made calls, wrote letters, and kept transferring the payments into my savings account, untouched.

    Finally, after 6 months of calling every two weeks and being thanked for alerting them to the problem, the DFAS took action. They sent me a threatening letter demanding that I refund them to gross pay that they had overpaid me implying that I was a total shit who had ripped off uncle sam. Of course, this would have wiped me out since they had been withholding my taxes. And they wanted me to pay something like 5% interest compounded monthly.

    It was fucking awful. The person I was talking to was an utter ass who refused to believe that I had been trying from the get go to get the problem fixed, and didn't give a damn that they wanted $10,000 more than they had actually paid me. Incidentally, they had reported the income to the IRS, so I had to pay taxes on this income I wasn't supposed to have gotten, and I was looking at getting my refund the next fiscal year after receiving a promised form to submit to the IRS.

    I finally lost it and explained that since I couldn't figure this out, I was going to send identical packets containing my letters and their letters, my phone log and DFAS statements to my congressman and the media in and let them figure it out.

    Suddenly they became very nice. We worked out an arrangement where I wasn't paying a penalty and I only returned the money they had actually sent to me.

  • John||

    You would think the worst thing that can happen to you is for DFAS to fuck up and pay you too little. But as bad as that is, it is worse when they pay you too much.

  • Drake||

    They got me when they double paid my travel once. Took it all back a year later without notice. I bounced some checks when my pay never materialized.

  • tarran||

    I've long suspected that the whole fiasco was a little bit of petty revenge from the Captain's Secretary on the carrier, after I badmouthed her division for its inability to print forms competently.

    For the next year, it seemed that everything that could go wrong with my records did, including my medical records getting lost for a month. That woman might have been crappy at getting her guys to do good work, but she sure was great at holding a grudge.

  • Loki||

    That woman might have been crappy at getting her guys to do good work, but she sure was great at holding a grudge.

    IOW she was the perfect petty functionary with delusions of grandeur government employee.

  • Loki||

    IOW she was the perfect petty functionary with delusions of grandeur government employee.

    Fucking html tags.

  • LTC(ret) John||

    I had a similar experience regarding per diem DFAS said I needed to repay when I was part of SFOR. Except that I got lucky and dealt with a E-4 at Fort Ben Harrison... had it straightened out in no time flat, even sent me the small balance it ended up I was owed.

  • Mainer2||

    Was the duplicate payment made out to Tuttle or Buttle ?

  • Anonymous Coward||

    Government axiom #16:

    It's easy to be generous with other people's money.

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