Bowman spoke of the fact the VA had tried to implement a new disability claims computer system (Veteran’s Benefits Management System) which still has not gotten to the point where Bowman believes it is properly serving the Vets. He spoke of ongoing challenges of implementation and utilization in different VA benefit offices throughout the country. Interesting the federal government constantly is coming down on the big banks. But if you open an account at Chase or Bank of America in San Diego you can access the account information in Peoria the next day. That the government can’t properly update their computers continues to fascinate.
The real issue that all are focused on (including the AAF) is the backlog of disability claims at the VA. There had been a backlog of up to 900,000 claims that have been made for Vets that have not been finalized. These claims typically determine a partial disability that grants the vet a monthly payout. The current backlog is 773,000 unprocessed claims of which 523,000 are over 125 days old. The over 125 day amount is down due to overtime granted to VA employees to administer the claims. President Obama announced in a recent speech that the VA, American Bar Association and Legal Services Corp. agreed on a program that would help unrepresented Vets with their unresolved claims.
Bowman explained the complexity of the problem, which will not be resolved by throwing attorneys at it. Many of the claims assert multiple disabilities. The problem is that the VA has to determine which of those claims are from the Vet’s time in uniform and which may have happened outside of service years. That means each claim has to have a proper review by trained medical personnel. Bowman stated he believes “Wherever the VA can rule in favor of the Veteran it does, though some believe that not to be true.” Bowman has also advocated substantially increasing the use of private contract providers to expedite the process, but the VA has been slow to do that at this point. So if the VA properly reviews each application, they are skewered by Vet supporters for delays; and, if they don’t, they would be excoriated for handing out government money in fraudulent claims. Damned if you do and damned if you don’t.
The challenges that face the people administering to the needs of our Vets remain immense. It is clear they need some private industry aid, but from what we see it appears to be going in the right direction. We are sure many will disagree, but most importantly we must be vigilant. Nothing our federal government does matters more. Tomorrow as you celebrate Labor Day remember those who labored the most to allow us to enjoy these holidays.