The inspector general of the Veterans Affairs Department
has completed an audit of the Little Rock Regional VA office
that says date adjustments on claims made it appear the office was making more progress than it actually had in reducing a backlog of disability claims.
The office adjusted file dates on unadjudicated claims to when they were discovered rather than when they were filed. The inspector general said that while the dates were changed in 48 cases, the Little Rock office had done so in compliance with then-prevailing guidance from the Veterans Benefits Administration. However, the inspector general also concluded the practice resulted in a "lack of assurance that staff would expedite processing of the discovered unadjudicated claims." In other words, they didn't look as old and as in need of attention as they should. It also made processing performance time look better than it should. The inspector said the VBA should have a standard, universal policy for establishing dates of claims.
The old guidance was supposed to have been terminated June 27, but the inspector general's report said this wasn't accomplished until late January.
Of the 48 cases, 43 involved disability determinations. An average of 20 months elapsed between receipt of the forms and the discovery of unadjudicated claims in the file. One was 20 years old, but adjusting the date to when it was discovered made it appear 14 days old.
Five other cases, such as on dependent allowances, averaged 5 years and 9 months between filing and discovery. One, 16 years old, was adjusted to appear to be six days old.
Here's the full report.
Reports of this practice surfaced in a hearing last year
and referred to practices in a number of regional offices.