VA Claims Backlog

Benjamin KrauseVA OIG found a massive claims backlog at St. Petersburg VA Regional Office employees sat on over 41,900 mail packages submitted by veterans to support their claims.

OIG also found over 1,600 boxes were also awaiting processing at the CACI scanning facility in Georgia.

Overall Claims Backlog Problem

The OIG found a boatload of problems at both facilities. Government contractors were comingling veterans’ claims documents with other documents. There was no oversight of contractor behavior for the company CACI International Inc., which is the government contractor responsible for scanning in veterans’ claims documents.

160107 Claims Backlog PhotosSo now VA employees are not even capable of scanning documents? Why was such a meaningless task outsourced?

An anonymous tip also alleged that the St. Petersburg VA Regional Office also experienced problems with its “Evaluation Builder” that resulted in numerous veterans receiving improper ratings. OIG did not substantiate that claim.

The Veterans Benefits Administration failed to provide adequate of contractor personnel to ensure they were processing and safeguarding veterans’ claims documentation.

DOWNLOAD: VBMS Claims Processing Investigation

Here is the executive summary of the report:

Review of Alleged Problems With VBA’s Veterans Benefits Management System and Claims Backlog

In July 2014, the VA Office of Inspector General (OIG) Hotline received an allegation from an anonymous complainant stating that significant problems existed with claims processing and the Veterans Benefits Management System (VBMS) at the VA Regional Office (VARO) in St. Petersburg, FL. The complainant also alleged that a VBMS claims processing tool, “Evaluation Builder,” broke down often and incorrectly calculated veterans’ disability claims, potentially costing the Government millions of dollars. We substantiated the allegation regarding a significant backlog of unprocessed hard copy veteran material resulting from inefficient preparation and handling of veteran provided documentation at a contractor facility. More specifically, according to VBA personnel and our observation of VBA portal metrics, the St. Petersburg VARO had more than 41,900 mail packages of veterans’ claims material that were backlogged and over 1,600 boxes awaiting processing at the CACI scanning facility. We also observed a significant amount of hard copy veterans’ claims evidence that was improperly stored, comingled with contractor documentation, or was disorganized and not ready for scanning. The significant backlog of unprocessed claims evidence occurred due to a large increase in volume of veterans’ claims at the end of 2014 and the VARO’s inadequate preparation of hard copy veteran material for scanning at the contractor facility. Furthermore, VBA did not provide effective oversight of contractor personnel to ensure timely processing or safeguarding of veteran information at the contractor facility. We did not substantiate the allegation that “Evaluation Builder,” broke down often or incorrectly calculated veterans’ disability claims. We recommended that the Under Secretary for Benefits ensure the St. Petersburg VARO consistently organized and mailed hard copy veteran material to contractor scanning facilities. Additionally, we recommended that the Under Secretary for Benefits initiate onsite reviews of the contractor scanning facilities to ensure efficient scanning practices and the proper safeguarding of sensitive VA information at those facilities. The Acting Under Secretary for Benefits concurred with our findings and recommendations.

Source: http://www.va.gov/oig/publications/report-summary.asp?id=3660

45 COMMENTS

  1. After reading the report Ben linked to this article just wanted to add that in addition to the more than 41,900 mail packages of veterans’ claims material that were backlogged and over 1,600 boxes awaiting processing at the CACI scanning facility the following.

    “Furthermore, at the contractor facility, we observed numerous pallets of boxes containing significant amounts of hard copy veterans’ claims material that required processing and were more than 30 days old according to pallet tracking labels.”

    Whether that was including the 1,600 boxes is unknown but the report seemed to indicate that it was in addition to the 41,000 mail packages and the 1,600 boxes.

    Thank you Ben for doing this article.

  2. I am betting the VA will now get a VA Contractor to open their damn mail!!!!!!!!!!! What **exactly** does the AFGE allow their Union Employees to do as far as “work”??? One would think that the VA would scan documents themselves but I am thinking that is part of the “backlog shuffle”…so much easier to pass the responsibility and blame on an outside contractor for WOK THE VA SHOULD BE DOING.

    Seriously??!!! How freaking hard is it to open mail on a regular basis? When I was doing my claims I followed advice from hadit dot com and *anything* I sent to the VARO I did so with Registered/Certified Return Receipt so they HAD to sign for it and I had proof of their receipt.
    With that said, I would like to know out of those 41,900 pcs of unopened mail at St. Petersburg VARO were Registered/Certified? Why? Because it would be breaking some Federal Postal Rules in ignoring those letter/packets and since the sender has original date sent printed by Post Office Receipt, the VA would not be able to re-date those by fudging their time stamps.

    How many of those 41,900 Vets died while waiting for the VA to do the right thing?

    I also propose that this will be found at just about all Regional Offices as a tactic to make it LOOK LIKE the backlog was seriously hacked-away. When you just do not have the time to shred just simply do not open the mail!!!! Pretend it’s not there.

    Also, this was first reported in 2014. Why is this just coming out in 2016? Maybe ALL of the VAOIG are just masturbating their days away at work, literally?!!!

    UN–Freaking–Believable!!!!!!

  3. Help me out. I seem to remember something about St. Pete’s VARO coming under fire back around mid 2014, I could be wrong, for veterans “personal info” being used by a “outsourced companies employees”?
    I wonder if it was the VARO or the VAMC (Tampa) or in St. Pete?

    Either way, this has to be something out of a Rod Serling’s “Twilight Zone”!
    It’s the same old B/S over and over.

    • @crazyelf-

      Funny you mention that because I was JUST thinking about even privacy and HIPPA Laws, as well as the concrete fact that *every* Veteran’s Social Security # is on every PAGE of these docs…our ‘serial number’ or ‘C-File’.

      Why would *anyone but* VA Employees having their hands and eyes on these documents? Considering how the VA seems to hire predators of various varieties why not some massive Identity Theft or worse? Siphoned benefits from deceased Veterans, as a proposed example and hypothesis, keeping them “alive” on the books for funding and outright theft. It probably happens because just read about VA Appointed Fiduciaries grand theft going on to this day.

      I do recall reading about something at a Florida VAMC or RO that personal info was being used just like mentioned above but not all the details…doubt it was ever addressed then either…just kept adding the Veteran’s Mail to the pile because scanning is too hard for these primates at the VA.

      “Twilight Zone” is appropriate but I am thinking more along “The X-Files” type of thing mixed with Sterling’s Stories.

      • I am pretty sure they know who they are hiring might want to check out the link below to their websites and check out the careers available through them at the CIA.

        “http://careers.caci.com/key/cia-Reston-VA-190.html”

      • I guess they must want to know about All Veterans filing claims. So you were right when you said; ““Twilight Zone” is appropriate but I am thinking more along “The X-Files” type of thing mixed with Sterling’s Stories.”

    • The problem I’m having with “outsourcing” to a private company is;
      1.) Do the employees go through a “security clearance” proceedure? It would seem detrimental IF a person of “questionable character” were hired to be granted access to “sensitive materials”!
      2.) Are they, once cleared, “bonded”? I believe, anyone who is hired to “view sensitive materials” MUST BE BONDED!
      3.) Is there some reason for not “filing” the records in an orderly and timely manner? Could this be because the “Outsourced Company” is a shame. Like many on here have said about “waste and abuse” by VA, “Follow the Money!”
      4.) Are the employees “familiar” with medical terminology? If not, WHY was this company hired to make “medical diagnostic appraisals on veterans benefits?”

      Can anyone think of other scenarios I might not have touched on?

      • Yep! I had to be officially BONDED when I worked for 6 years as a Docket and Document Clerk at a huge Syndicated Law Firm in their Asbestos Litigation Division. That also included a background check even though I held high clearances in USAF.
        I too, wonder how these outside contractors handling sensitive veteran and military service records are vetted, if at all?

        What’s next? The VA having ISIS members looking at such files because they send just about everything out for contractors to do FOR them?

        I can just see this scenario at any VAMC or VARO: “We need to call our contractor because Veterans are complaining that there’s no toilet paper in the bathrooms…and we Union Employees do not do bathrooms”, (use your imagination)!

    • i’ve read of this VARO before in recent years. surprise, surprise, oh my, this is in jiffy-miller’s state no less. jiffy-miller one of the countrys’ lawmakers and a VA committee member. who can’t or won’t rein in such mass abuses and thug behaviour at VA. all their fancy political rhetoric for simply a job of window dresser.

      next deployment call, you congress folks go, guys & gals in our realm be tared of dying, injured, mis-diagnosed-treated illnesses-(purposely) and being lab rats for your power broker handlers while you spew rhetorical jive and continue dancin’ their tune. how about dancin’ to the veteran tune?

      and the same beat goes on with most VSO orgs, does it not? that is they ain’t doin squat either, are they? if they are, show us where these orgs are raising awareness to all these scandals and demanding accountability for the wrongdoing vs the usual mo’ $$, mo’ $$$, mo’ $$$$. they have access to the halls of Congress don’t they, then show us veterans why they aren’t raising their voices on national media about much of the VA scandals & no accountability of VA serious wrong doings? Heaven forbid, could it be they are, and no one is listening to them either? if that’s the case no reason to donate money to them thar national bigwigs is there?

      i second the observations regarding Hickey’s ouster too. certainly i have zero specifics, but she did help a lot of veterans with some claims stuff & pinned a few VA employees in the process, even answered veterans emails. ya get that sinking feeling when you see one of the few that actually helped and then they get “vanquished”, ya know?

  4. Employees are not doing their jobs. So someone has to do it.probably a company with family ties to the VA.

    Who’s regulations are they using for security.yes they could sell the information and who’s going to know.why have VA employees at all.

    To many chiefs and not enough braves. No wonder so many veterans don’t get their disability.it was probably done on purpose so the VA can blame an outside source and not be liable.

    It wasn’t me

  5. The letter in response to the investigation from Acting Under Secretary of Benefits, Danny G.I. Pummill basically says the report is full of lies and the investigators were wrong. He goes on to explain that they didn’t see what they reported to have seen and the things they saw weren’t really there because VBA didn’t see them. The brown boxes weren’t white so they couldn’t have been there because they only use white boxes and the brown boxes that were in an out of order condition weren’t there because there weren’t any labels in the out of order conditioned brown boxes that weren’t white so they weren’t there. I hope this clears up the out of order confusion caused by inspectors who didn’t really see what they saw because the Under Secretary who wasn’t there knows the facts because the boxes they use are white not the brown ones that the inspectors inspected that weren’t there because they only use white boxes.

    I’m very glad Mr. Pummill cleared up the OIG botched investigation so we the victims can easily understand the investigators errors……………………..

    • Duuuuuuuu really. Duuuuuuu the VA always had an excuse and would never except responsibility for anything that goes wrong.

      The VA never does anything wrong and if they do they use people to cover it up. This country is going down the drain.veterans will never get any respect from higher management.a bunch of self fulfilling criminals.

  6. Thanks to the anonymous tipster that reported this.

    I don’t know for sure how to look at the situation. I submitted a claim 27 May 2015, St Pete finished it for me 2 Sep 2015. Screwed up the ratings, so I resubmitted reconsideration, which they processed and completed 4 Jan 2016. The second time around they it all right, I’m a happy camper.

    As far as mailing info goes, this stuff cant be that new. It must be stuff that accumulated prior to (I’m guessing) 25 Mar 2015 when the new, advanced, shiny program w/FDC claims came in. Lord knows how they go the national numbers down under 100k last year, but its their story, and it seems like they are sticking with it.

    The St Pete scandal is just starting, I am sure more info is to come.

    • @johnny5

      Congrats on you getting your deserved Service Connected Claim approved in record time!!
      1) You should consider yourself very fortunate or lucky.
      2) If your claim had evidence that was indisputably showing direct Service Connection, establishing that nexus with appropriate documents supporting all this then the way your claim went is the way it should go.
      3) My own Claim took about twice as long as yours but even that is incredibly fast and I too had all copies of docs, civilian and military medical records, and I did it all myself aside from a last minute push from my Senator because the VARO had left my file sitting on the same person’s desk that was out on medical leave and it had sat on that desk for over 8 months…WTF?!!! It took my Senator to light a fire under their asses, just because a person leaves office for extended time as in months, it does not mean ALL their assigned ‘work’ should go into the Twilight Zone, right?!!
      4) Did you do your own claim or did a VSO assist you?

      @johnny5-
      I also know that odd feeling you expressed when you wrote, “I don’t know for sure how to look at the situation.”
      It makes me feel crappy when talking to a Vietnam Veteran that is STILL fighting the damn VA or anyone that it has gone on for years, even decades. Not always, but quite often when I have talked to such people, they were relying all that time on some VSO Group to “find their documents” and even “filing of their claims”, et al.
      That’s why I asked if you did your own claim with all evidence submitted BY YOU because I am convinced that the VSO’s are in collusion with the VA and their Claim Backlogs.
      There’s exceptions to everything, including then-VA Under Secretary Hickey, whom I really think she was genuinely trying to help the claim process…but then that last scandal with her assisting the two female SEC Employees $cam the $ystem, my brain is now upside down about it all and do not know what to think.

      I simply think aside from having in your possession evidence of direct service connection and even then, it seems to be the “luck of the draw”…no rhyme or reason to the madness.

      Again, congrats johnny5. It’s always great to hear positive outcomes. Now, I hope you can also assist other Vets with your experience.

      • @namnibor
        You know what brother, I’m starting to believe Hickey was a scapegoat. I believe she was forced out. And paid to be silent.
        I don’t know for fact, it’s just a feeling.

      • I too, think she was the sacrificial lamb thrown under the VA Bus. We will probably never know unless she decided to write a tell-all book, but am thinking her eerie snuffed-out position and the timing involved, it was either McD or her or Sloan Gibson…again, only guessing here but am thinking it was an ‘administrative shuffle’ and who knows, she may now be working for Raytheon or something…she is USAF.

        Like “Where’s Waldo?”, Where’s Bobby?

      • Hickey was a scapegoat she had to be there’s something out there bigger going on BIG TIME an it will surface.

    • So how does a new claim get processed ahead of thousands of claims waiting for two ,three, and even four years at the same office….I thought they wen on the date the claim was received ?

  7. As we walked down the hall to my Hearing before the Board of Veterans Appeals, Washington, D.C. in 2008, the DAV representative said to me, “Denise, the VA is never going to admit their mistake in your Claim. The VA’s unwritten policy is: “Stall, Deny and Hope They Die.” My recently released book, now on Amazon Kindle Publishing, details our family’s now 19-year battle with the VA: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B018T30FNG
    My repeated requests to the Chairman of the U.S. Senate VA Committee, Senator Johnny Isakson, to speak before the Committee he chairs have received no response. My speech in 2013 is distributed via YouTube.
    http://gwmac.com/stall-deny-and-hope-they-die-the-story-of-one-widows-19-year-battle-with-the-va/ My next speaking engagement is 15 January 2016 on the “Morning on the Mountain” GCTV6 Radio Talk Show in Monteagle, TN. For our family, and so many others, because of the VA Claims System, the Vietnam War is not over…..

    • Stay strong.things will change for you.just one person has to be on your side and they will help you.

      I know it seems no one cares.but one day my friend.all veterans will have their day and those that are hurting us will pay the price and hope they get about ten years.

  8. Dear Mr. Krause:

    It is beginning to appear the techniques used against veterans is some type of genocide, because no one can tell me the procedures used in these veteran centers
    that results from this practices are deadly; all the abuse, neglect, mistreatment is not prejudicial to the health to veterans, yet all concerned that could stop it and do nothing about it.

    What do the ones in power to stop all the abuse that is going yet they turn a deaf ear to the entreaties, and go so far s to grant the perpetrators bonuses,pay increases, and send them of on vacations knowing what is been done to our VETERANS, what would do if they are parents and the same treatment meted out to their babies, would they offer the same excuses they now offer in the case of VETERANS: such as or equal to saying, oh that was just a case of poor judgment, excuses as ridiculous,
    or things comparable.

    Yours for GOD and Country
    Frank P. Calderon

  9. Dear Mr. Krause:

    P.S. The second sentence in my latest E-mail was meant to read no one can tell me the results from the procedures ar3 not deadly.

    P>P>S. It is evident it is a deliberate to perpetrate genocide uponVETERANS
    Yours for GOD and Country
    Frank P. Calderon

  10. I began filing VA claims in 1989 and I am still filing VA claims as of today, and I still have not received the correct answer of my claims. It’s just wrong for VA to do such treatment to our fellow Disable vets. Thank you
    Michael L. Warford

    • @Michael L. Warford-

      If you do not know about the website that has a wealth of info for filing VA Claims as well as Social Security is “hadit DOT COM” (just make appropriate changes as this site does not like actual web links posted), and use the search functions on that website with keywords for *anything* relating to your own claim, then start taking notes.
      Hope this helps if you did not know about that site or the search function there.

      Everything I needed to successfully file my Service Connected VA Claim as well as SSDI Claim I learned on that site…and I had ALL documents that established Service Connection.
      Good luck.

  11. Ben and all:

    That photo of all those disheveled boxes of files and unopened mail looks like a “hoarder’s basement” or something. I bet a few generations of rats have made homes there.
    Also, since this is Florida, where water damage seems to be part of living there, not to mention mildew from the heavy humidity, I would worry that disheveled mess in photo is in risk of being destroyed.
    What if just the water sprinkler went off?

    I worked at a major syndicated law firm as a docket and document clerk for 6 years after military and because it was asbestos litigation, I was responsible for a few hundred thousand files and all the corporate files. A LOT of stuff to copy, scan, make more copies, et al…and that picture of all those boxes of files and mail is totally unacceptable…if a person keeps-up with it as it comes in week to week, you never would have such a document disaster as that photo and this story depicts.

    I am guessing this is a case of plain old shitty work ethics and shitty supervisors *OR* were these files going to be shred? Thinking there’s more to be found on this story and that VARO and VAMC in same area of Florida.

  12. St. Pete is the absolute worst! LA and San Diego may not be the best, but they were a breath of fresh air to NO-PROGRESS St. Pete.

    It would be nice to have a map of the VA centers with Grades on various factors, so we can avoid the worst VA centers.

    • If the VA were following their own Regulations and Guidelines, we would have the exact same standardized VA Experience *no matter where one resides*, but until the VA becomes truly “standardized as an institution”, we will have the systemic mess things are still in today.
      It’s insane that any Veteran should have to consider moving to another State just to obtain reasonable care.
      It works the OTHER WAY as well. People have often reported that when life happens and causes one to move to another State, the VAMC in that new State may arbitrarily and illegally, decide to not even honor one’s Service Connected Disability and go as far as refusing to even look at previous VAMC’s medical records.

      This is insane.

      • Just for information.I received a letter from Bob McDonald’s office.

        The letter stated I qualified for treatment outside the VA system.because I live over 40 miles from a VA hospital.not clinic.

        I called the number in the letter and the employee told me I qualified even though they have a clinic two blocks away.

        The employee said she was going to make an appointment with a doctor in my area.lost the call.

        Called back and spoke with another employee and that employee told me.that someone would get back with me.to make an appointment.

        5 days now no phone call from them. Guess they are so busy they don’t have time to call me.

        Or Bob McDonald’s employees don’t know what their doing. I think I will hold my breath. LOL

      • Hey, James, I would call AGAIN!! Don’t wait! Maybe a not so thorough employee. Have found the squeaky wheel usually gets the grease.

  13. Given how the IG was operating in 2014, I bet the only reason why they investigated was because it was alleged that their miscalculation was costing them money.
    I also bet this can be found at numerous VAROs.

  14. Went through ST.Petersburg Bay Pines V.A. IN 05. I got so feed up with then and the service reps standing around drinking there coffee in there cheep suits and cheep silk ties, I rode the buss to the federal bldg. to see about the progress of my calm [ it had been years] . Got so pissed I got all of my records and applied to the court of Veterans appeals . Decided to take a chance, either they were going to give it to me or not, the court decided in my favor. before that I rode my bike [had nothing at that time] to stetson law school in Saint Petersburg got the laws that pertained to my case through them in there face!!. AND JUSTICE FOR ALL. After 20% for my lawyer.

      • I think it’s pretty bad.when the only way most veterans can get their deserved disability us to hire a lawyer.

        It took me forty years And after hiring a lawyer.magically my military records were found after I was told over and over that they were destroyed in the st Louis ?.

        Veterans suffering from ptsd and traumatic brain injury for forty years And never treated for those conditions effects their life in a dramatic way.that nothing can get back or take away the pain and suffering they had to endure.

        Just because they didn’t want to pay disability. Now I had a 0 percent disability in my records for neurosis.but no-one knee what neurosis was.

        I had two employees that kept getting into my administrative file and kept contacting regional office.until they made me non service connected.so I could not get treatment.

        One of those employees died about a year after he did what he did.

        The other employee is now in higher management position and in a position to harm any veteran of her choosing.as she has access to all veterans records as a medical administrative employee.

  15. I’m waiting 4 years for a decision on an increase in my service connected disability on my neck which has now caused nerve damage with muscle wasting of my left hand. I’ve been sending them copies of all medical tests and numerous letters about my status and have heard nothing. I will be 70 this year and believe the VA is going to linger on its decision until I die. So sad.

    • Mine is over eight years old , this time , increase of knees . Also first time for unemployability claim . Appealed , original , for knees increase ( @ 40% ) , depression , unemployability . After appeal it was over five years and a call to my congressman before a compensation and pension exam was even scheduled .They then, awarded me 50% for depression , back dated to original file date . But did nothing on the other two issues . Know I know why , as St.Pete has not even entered my favorable depression decision in my E benefits record yet ( depression ) .

  16. Issued 4-26-16

    April 2014, Review of potential “Inappropriate split purchasing practice”.

    Inspector Generals Office: We found the Inappropriate split purchasing, Extended beyond the Engineering service at East Orange New Jersey, office of Acquisitions. we determined VANJHCS employees split purchases in 64 of the 76 purchase card transactions (84 Percent) which we reviewed, Totaling $125.270. This included 19 purchase card holders working in 6 different Services.

    Based on the results of our SAMPLE, we Estimated that VANJHCS split purchases Totaling Approximately $8.9 Million from 2012 through May 2014.

    We estimated that split purchasing “Resulted” in Approximately $8.9 Million “In Unauthorized commitments” and Increased the Risk of Fraud, Waste and Abuse of Tax payers Resources at the VANJHCS.

    The :LACK” of Over site and Ineffective Controls Prevented VANJHCS, Management from Determing weather VANJHCS Received, All Purchased Goods and Services.

    No Arrests, So the VA can spend $8.9 million in Unauthorized Commitments and no one is held Accountable !

    How much more must the Veterans and Tax payers take $8.9 Million.

    Something wrong with this picture ! Where is the Arrests! If a Veteran owes the VA $10 dollars, they will spend $1,000 to get it back and punish the Veteran.

    • VA one giant tax payer funded piggy bank for corruption and theifs . A giant Rico conspiracy . We put veterans first ? Sickest lie I’ve heard , right next to I’m from the the government and I’m here to help , the checks in the mail , I will respect you in the morning , and I won’t @$!# in your mouth ? President , congress , MC Donald and on and on promising changes that never come . ONLY change ? More dead veterans , and more billions gone , it’s magic , POOF @$!#/&&*

  17. still waiting on iu nod dro claim..going on 500 days now…i get letters saying 377 days normal…started this in jan 2015 denied.. i told them i was waiting on voc rehab appointment …the va never asked for voc rehab just denied claim…..i am 80% peripheral neuropathy camp lejeune water hazard …i guess no bonus for nod dro that what it takes so long………..

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