VA Brags: Broken GI Bill System Works Right Half The Time

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130313 Lipstick on a Pig

“Mommy, look at how good my drawing is.” I feel like the VA at times resembles a small child expecting congratulations for only doing half of their chores. Only, unlike a child, the VA still expects its allowance.

That’s what I immediately thought when I read the ragingly positive press release about the job Dept. of Veterans Affairs has done in not fixing the GI Bill processing problems. Skip to the pink print below to read.

Congressman Bill Flores said it best when describing the current state of the Post 9/11 GI Bill, “It would be like buying a luxury car without air conditioning, heated seats, and a satellite radio.” That’s what the American taxpayer got, an over-priced Yugo.

Just one month ago, Congress interrogated Dep.t of Veterans Affairs’ Roger Baker, head tech dork, about problems with the GI Bill and other VA system failures.

Here is the big issue: VA spent $263 million on a software solution that should have cost much less. To make matters worse, the system does not work right. It will require even more money. And, VA has ZERO plan for this year to allocate more money to fix its problems.

This means that GI Bill processing takes about as long as it used to, on average. Taxpayers spent $263 million to buy a Yugo, and VA has no intention of fixing the automated system.

But, give the VA a pig, and they will try to put lipstick on it. Three things in life are guaranteed, death and taxes… and the US government running around with lipstick just looking for a pig to slap it on.

Despite knowing the government’s nature to spin, I was surprised to see yesterday’s VA public relations spin on what seemed like a huge loser when I covered it last month.

Rather than just complain to my friends, I decided to write about VA and its spin game. It is important for all of us to know the tricks of the trade so that we can use a little intellectual self-defense when we are being misled.

The press release was titled (get this) New Automation Process Cuts Post 9/11 GI Bill Claims Processing Times by More than Half. Could they have made that title any longer? I ran out of breath just typing it out.

First are some video highlights from the Congressional hearing. Then, you can read the press release to gauge for yourself if VA should be bragging.

I will add pink to the part that is clearly covered in lipstick for all of us to see:

 

VA’s Press Release

New Automation Process Cuts Post-9/11 GI Bill Claims Processing Times by More Than Half

WASHINGTON As part of its ongoing transformation from paper-based to electronic claims processing, the Department of Veterans Affairs has continued to improve the automated payment of benefits for Veterans participating in the Post-9/11 GI Bill education program.  As a result, VA is now providing benefit payments to currently enrolled students in an average of six days – cutting by more than half the processing time experienced during the spring enrollment period last year.

This enhancement to VA’s automated processing system, called the Long Term Solution (LTS), uses approximately 80 business rules to support end-to-end automation of Post-9/11 GI Bill claims, ensuring accurate payments without the need for manual handling.

During the month of February, 46 percent of incoming documents (over 115,000) for enrolled students were fully automated, and an additional 33 percent were partially automated.  For enrolled students starting a new semester of classes, processing is taking an average of six days to complete.  For new students using the benefit for the first time, the average time to establish their eligibility under the Post-9/11 GI Bill is around 24 days.

“We are happy to report that our newest technology has substantially reduced the amount of time it takes to process Veterans’ education claims,” said Under Secretary for Benefits Allison A. Hickey. “It’s a good example of VBA’s transformation that is delivering better service to the fast-growing number of Post 9/11 GI Bill participants.”

The rules-based processing approach LTS uses is also being built into VA’s technology for VA’s paperless disability claims processing—the Veterans Benefits Management System (VBMS).

Over the past three and 1/2 years, VA has provided $27 billion in Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits to approximately 938,000 Veterans, Servicemembers, and their families, and to the universities, colleges, and trade schools they attend.  For more information on VA education benefits go to https://www.gibill.va.gov/.

 

Analysis of Press Release Strategy

First of all, it is terribly ironic that VA is giving itself props for anything GI Bill related during the month of February given how Congress smoked them that month. I’m not sure if this is a sign of a psychotic denial of reality, or what.

Now, let’s analyze what VA is actually saying. After spending $263 million, almost two times the original budget and after 5 years, the system WE PAID FOR does not work correctly. It does not even fully process half the current GI Bill claims. To make matters worse, VA has no intention of fixing it this year.

I’m not sure if I need to right anything else. They are literally bragging about being less than half way there and being almost two times over budget. Not even a child would be as foolish as to ask me for applause after such a lousy use of resources.

Second, take a look at the second pink section. They always throw in some comment about how huge the work load is to make it appear that they are doing a lot of work. I sure don’t see traditional insurance companies doing that in the same way, like, “At Allstate, you are lucky to get your claim during the first year because we are so damn busy.”

I just don’t hear their commercials saying that, and I’m surprised that the VA relies on that to support them when they fail.

If you are mad. I suggest you write to Congress. Or, you can even just post a comment at the end of this blog.

 

Propaganda Examples in Media

Here are the names of some publications that reposted this as “real news.” There will be more through tomorrow. I’ll update this as I notice more companies cycling this as “news.” They used the same exact title, “New Automation Process Cuts Post-9/11 GI Bill Claims Processing Times by More Than Half.”

Over two years ago, VA or someone put out this same article titled:

That was republished by Military Times Edge: A Gannet Company. Does anyone find this interesting that two years later the VA recycled the same headline?

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8 Comments

  1. Yep, this is all PSY-OPS Propaganda and a candy-coated turd! Makes me wonder exactly why people like Paul Ryan with the Congressional Budget office **NEVER** mentions blatant over-budget and waste of tax-payer dollars, not to mention the terrible disservice to Veterans that’s taking place on a huge scale?
    Will the VA then next use the “Sequester” as a blanket excuse for their Disability Claims Backlog or even the National Deficit?
    Call me a cynic, but I fully think that Congress has placed an unspoken priority to all fat cat DOD Contractors, aka War Profiteers, over paying for those that served their wars and have the audacity to not really give a rat’s ass if they broke it, whether they should really have to fix it.
    It’s unfortunate because MANY of the homeless Veterans out there or those about to be are those that have been through the wringer of the VA Disability Claim diatribe and have simply given-up as it incurs and aggravates existing medical/mental issues by the very nature of a process that seems to be built in hopes the Veteran indeed simply gives-up and then the VA wins.
    Maybe the VA fat cats simply need to all go on another $100 Million vacation to Hawaii and then spend a few hours forming countless more committees to ponder what other effective cogs they can throw into the system to make it more “effective”?
    I am of course being completely facetious and sardonic because it’s so sad it’s actually laughable. Yet, this does piss me off!

  2. Everyone should be outraged, but for the VA, that’s well and good – as long as these Sideshows take everyone’s attention away from the Main Show: The Billions of dollars of taxpayers’ money being wasted through abuse, gross mismanagement, and outright criminal fraud.
    The VA can do anything it wants to do, including brazen violations of our laws and the rights of veterans, and lying to Congress because it has the perfect cover: “To care for him who shall have borne the battle, his widow, and his orphan…” The VA highjacked this Lincoln quote and now is using it effectively as cover for a very corrupt system within VA’s procurement network involving billions of dollars for IT, Major Construction (see Orlando, New Orleans, Denver, Las Vegas, Omaha), and drugs (see PPV). All the screaming about “claims backlog”, “homeless veterans”, “veterans suicides”, etc. are just sideshows or smoke-screen to hide or divert attention away from what really is going on deep within the core of VA Procurement – just the way VA wants it! The Audit Report of VA’s Financial Statement for 2011 is publicly available; you can can check it out yourself. In this report, the VA, with the help of VA OIG whitewashed an ADVERSE Audit Opinion into an Unqualified (or Clean) Audit Opinion, thereby hiding from the taxpayers the MATERIAL problems in VA’s Internal Controls. For the non-accountants (pardon the over-simplification), Internal Control is how a business or organization manage its resources (money, assets, procurement, payments, etc.). The VA, according to the auditor’s report, failed miserably (materially) in its Internal Controls.
The politicians are not going to do anything about this corruption because they somehow benefit from it too (lobbying and campaign contributions?). Ever wonder why the VA gets its budget increased year after year while the other agencies, including DoD, get theirs cut? Ever wonder why the VA did not get the cut from sequestration like the other Agencies had?
    This corrupt system cannot be economically sustained. Sooner or later there is going to be a cut on the budget. I’m afraid the cuts in veterans services will come first before any cut is made within the bloated, incompetent bureaucratic core. It will take a truly grassroots effort from the veterans and their families, and taxpayers to put a spotlight on the massive corruption within VA. It is not an impossible task; just follow the money – relentlessly! Let’s start with the VA OIG – the organization that is providing cover for the VA’s criminal core.

  3. Why is anyone surprised by this? For whatever reason, we keep electing people who are invested in the status quo. Most of the public didn’t serve, so they pay lip service to “taking care of the people who served,” but they really don’t give a rat’s ass about making the system work better.

    We’re so screwed in this country. We vets get stonewalled on our claims, while this administration actively recruits people for the welfare state. We’re paying more than four times as much for Medicaid and welfare than we are in veterans’ benefits. I can’t help but wonder how much of these public assistance is being paid to people who are here illegally.

    I finally got an attorney to handle my appeal. The VSO’s in my area are in bed with the VA people here. I went to my advocate’s office one day after he’d blown off my phone calls for two weeks, and he finally called the rater working on my case. The MF APOLOGIZED FOR BOTHERING HER! I blew up. I ended up emailing the national HQ for the VSO (DAV – I’m not trying to protect them here), and got some gladhanding phone call a couple of days later. A week later, it was business as usual. Unreturned phone calls, couldn’t even leave a message (“the mailbox you are trying to reach is full.”)

    Okay, that’s a tangent, but it seems like we are exemplifying the definitiion of insanity. The same failed system is being propped up by these career politicians we keep reelecting. This isn’t really even news. Show me a program that works like it’s supposed to, on time and on budget.

    That would be news!

    • You’re preaching to the choir on this one. I have had nothing but bad news every time I use a VSO. I guess it’s a good thing I went to law school to learn how to do it myself.

      I want to start investigating whether or not it can be proven that VSO’s do the bidding of the VA. Did you know that the majority of execs at DAV (the non profit) make over $200k per year. The top 4 make over $300k.

      The org’s membership dues raise around $5 mil, but total contributions bring the total up to $100 mil… I wonder from whom or what those contributions are coming?

      • Yes it can! What you have to do is connect the dots starting with the claims backlog and the 70% or more for sleep apnea. And then get into the VA’s corrupt Fiduciary Program with its $3B being held in “Trust”. Get a FOIA request for the program’s Financial Statements (since its inception) and then follow the money.

    • I believe the VA has already started selectively taking away from medical services. I say this from my experience and since I have Medicare, (and it actually costs me a lot more to use Medicare), but am also 100% Svc. Connected; the VA would not in my case approve the ONLY drug cocktail that medical genotypes and phenotypes have shown am resistant to ALL other classes of meds…*IF* I had used the VA and followed their joke of Dr’s suggested medications instead back in 2007, I know for a fact I would have been six feet under by 2009. The VA has this “Formulary of Drugs”, and I am not exaggerating when I say they are at least a decade or two behind real-world medical research.
      So, I pay a good part of my benefits on Medicare Part D copays to stay alive and yes, that medical issue tied to another is indeed Svc. Connected, but get this, at ZERO PERCENT Svc. Connected until at a future time it causes me more medical trouble…the coffin in their book I guess!
      Now, talk about all the money going to Medicaid and Welfare Programs: Do you realize that we on Medicare **never** have dental coverage? That also goes for most Veterans as well. I am talking Medicare, those of us that have worked ALL our life and paid into Social Security and taxes.
      Now, Medicaid, which is State-run and indeed is Welfare (a lot of American’s do not know the difference for political manipulation purposes), these crack/meth-heads and people that have never worked most if any day in life and more often third or fourth generationals doing so; they get ALL DENTAL paid for without having to pay one cent! I am currently having a bottom partial redone at a Dental College with out of pocket costs of $1300, while I see most that go there and my last year dental Dr. tells me same–are all these people that have never served nor have ever worked most of life or are under the auspice of ‘political refugee’…we have now over 50,000 people from Africa in this city and I know Minneapolis is another like my city, where as SOON as they are here, the only English they know is how to apply for every one of these Welfare State Programs!!! This SO pisses me off! I am all for a deserving person whom has worked or even is working full time job yet has no benefits and needs some help but even those that work yet have no benefits have to hang their head low and leave dental clinic because they do not qualify for Welfare.
      Sorry for the rant but our President’s Health Plan is going to EXPAND this access exponentially as far as Medicaid goes, while our working retirees on Medicare get absolutely no dental care…how is this sustainable? I am genuinely concerned about our Country and am afraid the future could be bleak when the gov’t invents incentives for people to keep working the system.

  4. the Va denied va claims to most everyone that how is done I have istemic heart probles and turned down I have 10% hypertensive vasclare disease and the two are not connected by VA rules.

  5. VETS NOTHING WILL HAPPEN UNTIL THE FEDERAL COURTS DECLARE VA A FEDERAL RICO CRIME RACKETS JUST LIKE THE MAFIA IS RICO RACKET WE TAKE AWAY THIE $ 170 BILLION $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$ BUDGET VA DEATHECARE WILL KEEP KILLING VETS FOR THE BONOUS $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$

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