"It Takes About One Year for [Dept. of Veterans Affairs] to Process a New Claim"

 

You want a truly bipartisan outrage? Consider the abysmal and ongoing treatment of the nation's veterans by the Department of Veterans Affair (VA), which was made a cabinet-level agency in 1989.

It doesn't seem to matter much which party runs the White House or Congress. Despite an annual budget around $90 billion, the agency continues to do terrible work when it comes to taking care of the men and women who fight the government's wars. And after a decade-plus of fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, there are 2 million recent vets.

Here's a Reason TV video that explores what's wrong at VA, who gets hurt the most, and what can be done to make things better. Original release date: November 10, 2013.

Over the last 12 years, more than two million Americans have been deployed to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan. But for thousands who return home with injuries, another battle is just beginning - this time, with the Department of Veteran's Affairs (VA).

Upon enlistment, service members are promised that, should a service-related injury occur, the US government will provide them with care and financial compensation. The VA is responsible for providing this care but have been unable to render these services in a timely manner. The average wait time for a veteran to receive his or her benefits is one year.

President Obama sounded the alarm during a speech in August 2010, stating that it was the country's "moral obligation" to provide veterans with timely compensation. Under VA Secretary Eric Shinseki, the Obama administration promised that all claims would be processed within 125 days and with a 98 percent accuracy rating by the year 2015.  

Despite Obama's speech, the backlog continued to grow, reaching a peak of nearly 900,000 pending claims with 70 percent backlogged in March of 2013. This past August, the numbers dipped slightly: nearly 800,000 pending claims with 63 percent backlogged.

The administration points to the August numbers as a sign of improvement, but reports of processing errors reveal a poor quality of work, with mistake in 30 percent or more of the claims that they process. Unfortunately for those waiting for assistance, when a mistake is made, the veteran must appeal. Once an appeal is filed, the average waiting time for the veteran is another four years. 

About 4 minutes. 

Produced by Amanda Winkler. Camera by Joshua Swain and Winkler. Narrated by Todd Krainin. 

For more links, resources, and downloadable versions, go here.

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  • Jordan||

    We should totally put these people in charge of healthcare for everyone.

  • Mike M.||

    Miss Butt Brazil 2013: Dai Macedo has Brazil's best bum.

    You're welcome.

  • fish_remote||

    I can palm a basketball...I'm up for the challenge!

  • ||

    I clicked your link. As I suspected, what brazilians think is the perfect ass is different than what I think the perfect ass looks like.

  • SusanM||

    Speak for yourself, kemosabe

  • Redmanfms||

    I clicked your link. As I suspected, what brazilians think is the perfect ass is different than what I think the perfect ass looks like.

    I agree.

  • Rhywun||

    *My eyes!*

  • Gozer the Gozerian||

    "You want a truly bipartisan outrage?"

    Can a question be so rhetorical that it comes back around to being a straight-up question again?

  • ||

    So the Obama administration is utterly failing to fulfill another promise. Color me shocked. Shocked, I say. Yawn.

  • Coolhandluke76||

    Yeah - wow the administration sure is failing...the backlog growth has stopped, the claims inventory is the lowest since 2010, accuracy has actually improved if you look at current numbers past August (why did this author ignore those....hmmm)more claims have been completed than previous years for three years in a row...and oh yeah- Shinseki told everyone his plan to do all this by 2015...I think it is still 2013, for at least a few more months, right?

  • Jayburd||

    Ralph Smeed's billboard lives on. http://smeedonstate-ism.com/readerboard2.html

  • Root Boy||

    Everybody screws up the VA stuff for some reason, not just Obama-disaster. (off topic, I heard Obama showing us some knowledge of healthcare by saying VA doesn't have electronic records which was totally disputed by a bunch of vets, but hey, he makes up shit all the time, so it's all good).

    Also off topic, libs (and some Repubs) keep wanting to make Vets a dependency/victim class which would be a tragedy. You (and I) volunteered, quite acting like a pussy.

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    I suppose the difference is that medical care is an employment benefit. Of course, it's possible Congress has been too generous with these benefits, but the principle is a good one that employees should get compensation from their employer - the problem comes in when the employer/govt overpays the employee, which it's sometimes asserted they do with certain govt workers.

    Another consideration comes in when a veteran's injuries are caused by their service. There's an extra argument there for their employer helping them out with injuries they got on the job. Private employers are generally required to do this, why not the govt?

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    Ah, yes: "Upon enlistment, service members are promised that, should a service-related injury occur, the US government will provide them with care and financial compensation."

    If that's true, then the boss should keep its promises.

  • Francisco d Anconia||

    If that's true, then the boss should keep its promises.

    While I agree with that, when the promises are quite certainly going to bankrupt the company, you need to stop making promises you know cannot be fulfilled.

    Retirement and healthcare commitments are tearing the ass out of the military. Congress knows it, but will not change the laws.

    Yes, live up to your commitments but stop promising the same package to new recruits.

  • ||

    "Retirement and healthcare commitments are tearing the ass out of the military. Congress knows it, but will not change the laws.

    Yes, live up to your commitments but stop promising the same package to new recruits."

    That's all well and good but good luck getting recruits on board. "What's that you say? You'll pay me below minimum wage to bust my ass 24/7 and refuse to compensate me if i get my legs blown off?"

    A better idea would be to get rid of the contract bid system along with these VA facilities. They're garbage accommodations staffed by bottom-of-the-barrel staff. You could probably just comp the cost of any health insurance/procedures of all vets and save a ton.

  • BuSab Agent||

    Progtards need to look very closely at the VA. This is what American single payer healthcare looks like.

  • ||

    If I wanted to keep my boot on americas neck I would want people disarmed, unemployed, ravaged by high crime, and to have really shitty healthcare. In other words, helpless.

    I think most proggies, looking closely at the VA, would think single healthcare would be just peachy.

  • Irish||

    New York Times accidentally shows us why people under 35 can't get a job in southern Europe.

    Her inability to forge a career worried Ms. Méndez, who could not even begin to think of making a home or a family. To gain experience, she was making plans to form a cooperative to study social issues like gender equality and sell reports to public institutions. She also volunteered to help abused women and attended meetings of the grass-roots movement Youth Without a Future to assist other young people exploited in temporary jobs.

    So her first thought when it came to entrepreneurship was to create reports about gender equality and sell those to universities. When that genius plan didn't pan out, she started helping young people 'exploited' in temporary jobs. Note that unemployment among the young in these countries is sometimes upwards of 40%. If you have a job, even a temporary one, you should be thankful in that situation and shouldn't see yourself as an exploited victim.

    I feel like this paragraph really shows the impact that culture has on the decay of a society.

    Good for her helping abused women though. At least one of the three things she tried to do is actually a valuable service.

  • ||

    There's just no job market there. This woman is reaching for ridiculous stuff because there's nothing else. I've known people in Barcelona who had what we would consider a perfectly normal and real job, and they absolutely could not live without having multiple roommates, because the jobs just do not pay anything. They have their universal (and abysmal) healthcare, so they think they're doing ok, but it is brutal there if you aren't wealthy.

    My Catalan ex-girlfriend got free schooling, all the way through a PhD. In psychology. And then there were a trillion people trying to fill any psychology position at the University of Barcelona or anywhere else. The incentives are all perverse, because schooling is free, and people get degrees in useless shit because they're not paying for it. It's very fucked up there.

  • ||

    I read your excerpt and...well...just sat here with my jaw hanging down thinking....someone please shoot that worthless lump of meat. One behind her ear, that is all it takes.

  • General Butt Naked||

    She spent two years bouncing between short-term contracts, which employers have sharply increased during the crisis to cut costs and avoid the expensive labor protections granted to permanent employees.

    Looks like they're getting to one of the root causes of this.

    In some countries, especially those with the highest youth unemployment rates, short-term contracts are nothing more than opportunities for employers to take advantage of the weak labor market.

    Ohhhh man, so damn close, NYT. You'll get 'em next time, tiger. Wanna juice box?

  • Irish||

    Short term labor contracts should be outlawed. I'm sure if we did that, everyone would get long term contracts.

    There would be no increase in unemployment. None.

  • ||

    I am feeling especially grumpy, so, back on topic, could we also punch everyone in the mouth who ever suggested single payer medical care?

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    Punchmaster says yes.

  • The Late P Brooks||

    To gain experience, she was making plans to form a cooperative to study social issues like gender equality and sell reports to public institutions. She also volunteered to help abused women and attended meetings of the grass-roots movement Youth Without a Future to assist other young people exploited in temporary jobs.

    "The world needs ditchdiggers, too."

  • The Late P Brooks||

    She spent two years bouncing between short-term contracts, which employers have sharply increased during the crisis to cut costs and avoid the expensive labor protections granted to permanent employees.

    Puzzling.

  • Mensan||

    [personalanecdote]I got out of the Army in 2009 after more than 12 years of service. I was stationed at an Air Force base for a couple years, and during that time I injured my knee. The Air Force orthopedic surgeon decided I was faking it to get out of duty. He put that in my medical record. He said surgery would not help me since he could not see any actually injury. I continued going to physical therapy for my knee for the remainder of my term of service, which helped a little, but my knee never stopped hurting and remains unstable to this day.

    A few years later, as I going through my discharge process, I finally saw the radiologist's report of the MRI that had been done on my knee. I had (still have) a torn meniscus and a partially torn LCL. The ortho surgeon's notes, on the other hand, say that my MRI showed nothing. To this day my knee hurts constantly, swells often, and I walk with a limp.

    In February 2010 I applied for a disability determination with the VA. Mainly I was just seeking medical and or PT care more than any monetary compensation. In August 2012 the VA denied my claim. For months I could not get anybody to tell me why the claim was denied, but finally they said it was because of the AF surgeon's note. I filed an appeal in January of this year. It still hasn't been reviewed. Take a guess about my opinion of the VA. [/personalanecdote]

  • Redmanfms||

    Yup, been there, done that. Luckily for me my injuries weren't permanently debilitating. My cousin was not so lucky. Ankylosis after an ankle injury while PT-ing has made it that he now can only walk with a cane.

    Military medicine is fucking terrible unless you have a sucking chest wound.

    It's a great place to train future civilian trauma surgeons, but in actual patient care they are trained to view any patient as malingering and work backwards from there because military medicine mentality never updated from the draft army. And these shitheels take this mentality to the civilian world when they leave the service. The worst doctors I've ever seen are former military. Also, they entirely lack the concept of malpractice because they can (and frequently do) kill people (including civilian military dependents) by gross malfeasance and get away with it.

    That the VA has all of that and a healthy dose of "no habla" makes me stay the fuck away at all costs.

  • Jason Davis||

    Wow, I expected a better assessment from Reason than this. VA updates its inventory and backlog progress each week here: http://www.vba.va.gov/reports/mmwr/

    But if we're going to write about August in November, then go Angels! They still have a shot at the pennant, right?

    The backlog is currently at 393,000, and should be less by Monday. That's a 35-percent drop since the peak in March. Not good enough? Tell that to the 220,000+ Vets who received their completed claims, most of them the oldest in the system. All of the 2+ year claims are decided, and as of last week, 93 percent of claims 1+ year old had been completed.

    Accuracy? The 3-month average for accuracy is 96.7 percent, which means that for claims decided in the past 3 months, 96.7 percent of those decisions are made without error based on what's in the files. Since March, the accuracy rate is about 90 percent.

    Yes, there's still a backlog, and there's still sub-98 percent accuracy. But it's also not yet 2015.

  • Jason Davis||

    But instead of enraging your readership, maybe your publication should spend a few extra minutes to give some context to the situation? Do the authors even know how this situation got out of hand? If you look at the charts, you'll see a sharp shift up in a very short amount of time. That's when the current administration DID RIGHT by our Vietnam veterans by allowing them to claim for illnesses that had been denied them for decades. You know what happened? Practically overnight, several hundred thousand vets filed claims. Another reason why it takes so long? VA must follow certain laws and procedures that are counter-intuitive to the timeliness of the process. Then there's also the fact that a majority of Vets are now claiming 12+ issues per claim. Didn't used to be that way. These claims are complex and they require a great deal of examination of evidence.

    Let's not pretend that VA doesn't take care of Vets. Two-thirds of those filing claims with VA are already being compensated, and just one-fifth of the inventory and backlog are OEF/OIF vets.

  • Jason Davis||

    None of this is spin. None of this is being a VA homer. All of this information is available publicly. Instead of enraging the base or discouraging Vets from filing claims by reporting old information, why not try to instead help those people by providing useful information, such that filing fully-developed claims online are showing return rates of 97 days, or FDCs via paper about 121 days? More and more claims are going paperless, and they're being routed through something called "segmented lanes." You won't hear about it if no one's reporting it, but this is the future of that system, it's working, and the backlog is on pace to be eliminated by sometime in 2015, as promised.

  • Coolhandluke76||

    Jason...finally someone who knows the actual story and not just the old rhetoric of "the VA screwed-up my claim" and then using old stats to try to make this fading backlog story relevant. People apparently don't really want to know the whole story about how this administration has done more for Veterans than any that I can remember. It's a political football for people that want to entrench themselves in their right-wing phillosphy.

  • Alice Bowie||

    I always advocated for government run health facilities for those on Medicare, Medicaid, and others that the government covered.

    Forget about it. If the VA is crap, can you imagine.

  • SQRLSY One||

    Scienfoology Song

    Government loves me, This I know,
    For the Government tells me so,
    Little ones to GAWD belong,
    We are weak, but GAWD is strong!
    Yes, Guv-Mint loves me!
    Yes, Guv-Mint loves me!
    Yes, Guv-Mint loves me!
    My Nannies tell me so!

    GAWD does love me, yes indeed,
    Keeps me safe, and gives me feed,
    Shelters me from bad drugs and weed,
    And gives me all that I might need!
    Yes, Guv-Mint loves me!
    Yes, Guv-Mint loves me!
    Yes, Guv-Mint loves me!
    My Nannies tell me so!

    DEA, CIA, KGB,
    Our protectors, they will be,
    FBI, TSA, and FDA,
    With us, astride us, in every way!
    Yes, Guv-Mint loves me!
    Yes, Guv-Mint loves me!
    Yes, Guv-Mint loves me!
    My Nannies tell me so!

  • JidaKida||

    There is a dude that seems to know what time it is.

    www.Privacy-Web.tk

  • wingnutx||

    The VA tries to get anyone being discharged or demobilized to claim as much as possible. Like any bureaucracy, it wants to grow its fiefdom.

    This leads to a lot of BS claims, which crowd out legitimate claims.

    Whoever mentioned the attempt to turn vets into a victim/dependency class is pretty spot on.

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