Veterans Affairs

Benjamin KrauseVeterans Affairs Inspector General provided testimony to Congress that VA’s 30-year Paperless VA quest from VETSNET to Veterans Benefits Management System (VBMS) is a total mess.

Titled, “1988 to 2016: VETSNET TO VBMS: BILLIONS SPENT, BACKLOG GRINDS ON”, the VA OIG report issued a rather scathing review of how the Department of Veterans Affairs has mismanaged its opportunity to resolve the backlog using VMBS without resorting to manipulations to look good.

VETERANS AFFAIRS IT BUDGET 2016

Despite an enormous IT budget, VA has yet been unable to adequately convert to the VBMS system as planned at a cost of $1.3 billion since 2009. This year alone, VA requested $4.1 billion for its overall IT infrastructure but still lacks adequate protocol to ensure the money will be wisely spent.

Some of you may remember Allison Hickey, the former head of Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA). She was the retired general who stepped down in October after two of her highest ranking SES executives looped her into their manipulation scheme.

REMEMBER: Why Did Hickey Cover For Rubens, Graves?

Hickey touted the paperless VA transition as being the silver bullet to eliminate the veterans claims backlog. However, once it became known in certain circles that the goal would not be accomplished by 2015, VA shifted gears to expeditiously process claims out of the backlog without properly addressing accuracy.

Never mind that VBA thought of that argument, and were quick to redefine how accuracy was to be determined… basically whatever VBA needed to convince the rest of America that it was doing a good job.

According to VA, it was processing claims with 98 percent accuracy. OIG was quick to point out in its testimony, though, that the sample size was too small to brag about.

Performance metrics be damned.

VA OIG confirmed that current attempts to effectively measure performance metrics are insufficient.

VETERANS AFFAIRS WRITTEN TESTIMONY

Here is an excerpt from the written testimony:

In our September 2015 report, Follow-up Review of the Veterans Benefits Management System, we focused on whether VA had improved its schedule, cost, and performance supporting VBMS development to meet its claims processing accuracy and backlog elimination goals. We noted that VA remained partially effective in managing VBMS development to help meet claims processing accuracy and backlog elimination goals.

We also found that VA stayed on schedule in deploying planned VBMS functionality to all VAROs in 2013. However, since September 2009, total estimated VBMS costs increased significantly from about $579.2 million to approximately $1.3 billion in January 2015. The increases were due to inadequate cost control, unplanned changes in system and business requirements, and inefficient contracting practices. As a result, VA cannot ensure an effective return on its investment and total actual VBMS system development costs remained unknown. Further, VBA did not design performance metrics to assess the actual time saved by processing claims using the new system. We also noted that:

– VBMS did not fully provide the capability to process claims from initial application to benefits delivery.

– Users lacked training needed to leverage the enhanced functionality provided.

– System response-time issues resulted from rapid software enhancements while system disruptions were due to inadequate service continuity practices.

Until these issues are addressed, VA will continue to lack reasonable assurance of meeting its claims processing accuracy and backlog elimination goals.

We recommended the Executive in Charge for OI&T, in conjunction with the Under Secretary for Benefits, define and stabilize system and business requirements, address system performance problems, deploy required functionality to process claims end-to-end, and institute metrics needed to identify and ensure progress toward meeting stated goals. The Executive in Charge for OI&T, in conjunction with VBA, generally agreed with most of our findings and recommendations. As such, we will monitor implementation of corrective action plans to ensure that   our findings and recommendations are fully addressed.

We are currently reviewing allegations related to VBMS’ security controls. We are examining whether VA failed to integrate VBMS security edits to prevent stations from inappropriately processing veteran employee claims at their assigned stations and if VA has not integrated exception logs into VBMS, which allows information security specialists to review, audit, and intervene in potential security violations. Our work in this area is ongoing and we plan to issue a final report in March 2016.

In our January 2016 report, Review of Alleged Problems with Veterans Benefits Management System and Claims Processing, we substantiated the allegation regarding a significant backlog of unprocessed mail in December 2014 waiting to be scanned into VBMS. This resulted from inefficient preparation and handling of veteran-provided documentation at a contractor-operated facility. Specifically, at the time of the review, according to VBA personnel and 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 scanning facility. Furthermore, while on site at the contractor facility in early 2015, 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. From a sample of this documentation, we determined that it took an average of 30 days to scan the material from these claims into VBMS after arriving at the scanning facility. VA’s contract requires the contractor to scan hard copy veterans’ claims evidence into VBMS within 5 calendar days of receipt. VBA personnel stated they were aware of this scanning delay but we did not find evidence of VBA prioritizing this issue and taking effective corrective action.

At the end of the written testimony, VA OIG stated:

Although VBA has made strides in reducing the backlog of disability claims, we cannot state that VBMS significantly contributed to this reduction. As we have provided oversight of VBMS’s development over the past several years, VBA did not put adequate performance metrics in place that could support the efficiencies gained from using the new system, such as the actual time it takes to process certain types of claims. Thus, when the costs of system development exceed a billion dollars or have high financial development costs, this type of information is important to ensure economies and efficiencies are being realized over time.

Further, because of the 13 reviews we completed in FY 2015 related to data manipulation at 11 VAROs, we have concerns that the total number of claims processed and/or those counted in the inventory are not accurately reported.

That is correct. VA has to resort to data manipulation to meet its numbers. Clearly, it was apparent in October that the jig was up, which may have more to do with Hickey resigning than much else. Her silver bullet was instead more snake oil sold to us for the benefit of government contractors taking advantage of America’s great Corporate Socialism system sponsored by debt on the back of the great, great grandkids of American taxpayers.

Yada, yada, yada.

I think we can all rest assured that VA could not find its way out of a paper bag no matter how much money taxpayer throw at it. Congress is clearly unable to hold the agency accountable. The courts seem unable to adequately address the problems.

So now what? Is it time to #boycottVA ? Make the agency die on the vine like a defective piece of fruit?

Perhaps it’s time to treat VA like the petulant child that it is and take away its discretionary fund allowance. It VA continues to behave like a brat, we need to punish it.

Source: http://www.va.gov/OIG/pubs/statements/VAOIG-statement-20160112-arronte.pdf

namnibor
These people go as far as manipulating the very data they provide TO THEMSELVES for the grand scheme of requesting more $$$$$ to throw at the “problem”, which BY DESIGN has absolutely no accountability measures (“metrics”, as the VA calls it) even in their plans. Not even a huge bank that likes to take risks will give a small business loan to anyone without such planning and that thing called a “business plan” or also known as “accountability”. “[…Despite an… Read more »
Jim Starowicz
* * UpGrading the VA Finally? Lawmakers {conservatives} & Those They Represent Continue {Decades} Balking * * “Why in 2009 were we still using paper?” VA Assistant Secretary Tommy Sowers “When we came in, there was no plan to change that; we’ve been operating on a six month wait for over a decade.” 27 March 2013 DeJa-Vu: “With no shared sacrifices being asked of civilians after Sept. 11″, Decades and War From, All Over Again!! And that covers much more… Read more »
crazy elf
crazy elf
I thought there would be more as to “WHY” Hickey retired!? I also believe, there’s going to be lots more scandals concerning this, and other issues, in the months ahead! I also would like to know, “Where is all the taxpayers money going?” Since there’s no “accountability or transparency” involved! Is this one of the “reasons” WHY Gibson tried to bamboozle the Congressional Committee in changing the “definition” of Accountability? I wonder what else Gibson has in store for the… Read more »
namnibor
@crazyelf- It would be just like the VA to build that VAMC in Ho Chi Mihn City smack dab on top of 1000’s of buried barrels of Agent Orange in a similar way nuclear power plants proposed to be built upon known existing geological fault lines. I too wonder if the VA cannot stay on budget with a VAMC in Colorado, as just one example, then HOW will they do the same with that location? Are American Contractors or Army… Read more »
namnibor

Correction…I meant “quite”, not quit. More coffee….

Last night’s State of The Union would give one the impression that all is honky dory at the VA….anyone else catch this? When POTUS did mention the word “Veterans” it was almost like an afterthought in his sentence.

Still not “feeling” that “Change You Can Believe In”. NEXT!!

crazy elf
crazy elf
@namnibor The wife and I “boycotted” the President’s speach last night. There was a “call” on Facebook to do so! We felt we could learn about it in the days to come. You know, watch what our “left-wing radicalized Dumbocratic news media’s” have to offer. Then, watch the true meanings on Utube. We all know how Obamy, and the rest of our elected and appointed officials, feel about veterans! They could care less about all the corruption, waste, abuse and… Read more »
namnibor
I also admire the “Boycott the VA” proposal but you know what? Even if only say 20% of all Veterans actually utilized the VAMC’s, the VA would manipulate that data to justify even more Billion$ by fudging those numbers and STILL claim “Veterans LOVE the VA”. Not trying to be negative here, it just seems like it would be wasted energy because “without metrics” or (accountability…”metrics” seem to be the new “word” replacing or is code for concept of “accountability”),… Read more »
Hondo
Hondo

It didn’t appear that Secretary McBoob was at the POTUS pep rally last night. Must be entertaining Jane Fonda’s friends in Vietnam. Do you think he’ll call it the,

“Jane Fonda VA Medical Center”.

namnibor
@Hondo- I too, looked diligently to see if I could spot VA Sec. McDonald at last night’s State of The Union and definitely did not see him amongst the other ‘cabinet appointees’ and the literal *few* times POTUS even uttered the word “Veterans” (am pretty sure once), there was not that camera cameo shot of McDonald picking nose or anything…Missing In Action. Maybe Bob was watching it from a Disney Lounge or from the VA Chateau Hotel in Paris’s lounge?… Read more »
Patrick
Patrick

Republicans, Democrats, they’re ALL fill of shit

James Hall
James Hall

Evert thing is broken when it comes to big government. Our founding fathers new this and today all the waste is do to big government. Chop off all the waste of the branches so the tree of liberty can live again. With out a small government there is no justice no peace no liberty, that is how kings can get away with anything they trow down our throats.

91Veteran
91Veteran
If one didn’t know any better, one would think you were reading a report on the VAs building construction practices. Lack of oversight, over budget, years behind schedule. Boycotting the VA means they’ve gotten away with wasting billions. Congress needs to step up and tell VA, no more nitwits running projects like this. They need people with proven track records of doing this, with realistic, measureable performance metrics provided before a dime is spent on another good idea. Now, how… Read more »
namnibor
The sad thing about the last time a contractor came on here recently and defended a project was this very IT “updating, string-along contractor” and it was unfortunate because the person claimed to also be a Disabled Veteran. I say unfortunate because I hold him/her to an even higher standard than your average nitwit contractor for the VA. If a project like this IT updating has been strung-along since 1988 by various connected and non-connected contractors and still has failed… Read more »
gongyourout
gongyourout
I say punish the VA. They are merely spoiled brats run by ignorant jackasses who have no business IQ on how to do anything. Everyone of them are dirt bags and horse farts. Ever talk to one of the top exec’s at a hospital? Pure Windbags. They know they can’t do anything in the word, so they put up with a federally run hospital, of all ambitions, as a career choice. They turn to crime and getting away with things… Read more »
ralph
ralph

The VA doesn’t need money. They need INTEGRITY !!!!

Frank Calderon
Dear Mr. Krause: One crucial thing we must and should teach those in power (our government), which is something they obviously do not learn, that is who is the government and who is in charge; they think because they have a “prestigious title” behind their name, and or a lot of money, that’s what makes them boss, makes them boss, what they do not realize is, all they are doing is biting the hand that feeds them. Take as an… Read more »
Don Karg
Don Karg
01/14/2016 Dear Benjamin Krause, You are a where of $6 Billion dollar contract” http://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20160106005908/en/CACI-Awarded-Prime-Position-6-Billion-Multiple-Award CACI Awarded Prime Position on $6 Billion Multiple-Award Contract With the Defense Intelligence Agency Company to Continue to Employ Diverse Technologies and Expertise to Streamline Intelligence IT Systems CACI wins VA contract for up to $91 million – Modern … http://www.modernhealthcare.com/article/…/310259992 • Modern Healthcare Oct 25, 2010 – Also under the contract, CACI will support the VA’s efforts to link with … at the VA’s Loma… Read more »
Frank Calderon
Dear Mr. Krause: What I see the redirecting of funds earmarked for Veterans to other projects, Is not error, nor incompetence, I see it as a deliberate conversion of funds, which is nothing more then pure thievery, and sad to say our government has become a part of it by tolerating what is going on and these government folks know precisely what they are doing; they have legal counsel to advice them if they are not sure and many of… Read more »
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