How VA’s Tech Mess affects Disabled Veterans
VA’s Information Technology is huge. Yet, for years, VA has failed to deliver fully functional systems that benefit veterans.
On the surface, these failures suggest that the government contractor who did not perform as advertised received the only benefit.
This veteran wrote in about his struggle to get accurate information about his appeals case. I assume he is talking about the eBenefit.gov system. I’ll address his letter below.
Here’s the drill: I include this for all newcomers. Each week, I take an email from a veteran that would have broad appeal to many veterans. Questions are usually about the GI Bill, VA Voc Rehab, or Disability Compensation.
I then analyze the veterans benefits issue for a bit and post my input here in our weekly segment: Mailroom.
Basically, I take out all of the veteran’s identifying information from the best email and post it here with my answer.
If you have a burning question about your veterans benefits, sent me an email by selecting the contact tab at the top of this page. If I think your situation will be helpful for other veterans, I will re-post it here.
* If you do not want me to write about your veterans benefits situation, please feel free to let me know within the email. I have no problem keeping a lid on the situation, too.
Letter from the Disabled Veteran:
First of all, thank you Benjamin for being on the veteran’s side. We definitely need all the help we can get.
My story is a little different. I left active duty in April 1989, and served in the National Guard until 1992. I had a serious ankle injury in 1985, one that I was not allowed to receive therapy or treatment on because I had an OIC who hated enlisted men (but that’s another great story).
Fast forward to 1997, when I initiated a claim for compensation for this injury. I was granted 10% disability, which was raised to 20% several years later (and later lowered back to 10%).
Meanwhile, VA decided I needed to see a psychologist because I was depressed since I was rapidly losing mobility and use of my leg with the injury. After several years of talks, the psychologist one day asked if I had any suicidal thoughts or depression because of events from the military. I told him I one friend die while working, and another commit suicide because of depression. These, of course, weren’t pleasant memories. So, he gave me a test, and told me I did have PTSD.
So, now 3 years later, EVEN THOUGH VA TOLD ME I have PTSD, the VA rater turned it down, of course. So I appealed – that was around 2001. I find out that the case hasn’t even left the regional office after all this time. I have gotten my Senator involved, but it doesn’t seem to have helped much.
Looking on the VA website is a nightmare, at least for me. One section tells me my case is still in Nashville, another tells me it’s completed, and another section basically runs around in circles. I honestly believe VA waits to see how many vets will either die or just give up on our claims, and the raters are the lowest of the low, and couldn’t care less about what they do on the jobs or about vets in general. Thank you.
Letter from Benjamin Krause (me):
Sounds like you are in a tricky situation in light of the different stories you are receiving from VA.
I believe some of VA’s cited problems are actually the result of its quest for a perfect analysis of veteran behavior during adversity. For example, the Indianapolis VA is also called the Center for Health Information and Communication for VA.
There, they researched ways to contact veterans to create a desired result. The resultant data could be used to ensure the veteran shows up. The data could also be used to create a bad practice policy to ensure veterans are contacted, but to also ensure they do not show up.
They also use a program called SPDER to support its VA-CASE program. I am not clear on whether or not VA sells its research to private business, but I can imagine the Insurance Industry would do very well by capitalizing on the information.
When it comes to your specific issue, I have found that the best way to sort out the double or triple messages is to walk into the VA Regional Office to figure it out.
Be polite but resolute. Your goal is to view your file with a VA adjudicator. This way, you can figure out what it is VA is actually doing.
Another idea would be to look at your file in eBenefits.gov to see what paperwork VA has generated. Despite what the systems says about the status of the claim, the paperwork and documentation is what really matters.
A veteran service officer (VSO) can also request a copy of your file. Once it arrives, you can sit down with the VSO to review the documentation.
Again, be sure to treat everyone with kindness and respect even if they are rude. This will earn you points even if their rudeness persists.
Thank anyone who helps you, and be sure to shake hands with all you come in contact with.
That’s what I did for my own claim and it went much more smoothly than it would have otherwise gone.
But, never take anyone’s word for you regarding your file. You need to see it with your own eyes.
And that is all I have to say about that.