Trump’s VA Sought To Make It Harder For Veterans To Receive Disability Benefits

Recently appointed Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert Wilkie.Screengrab/U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs/YouTube

By requiring unnecessary reexaminations to continue veterans' benefits, the VA inconvenienced veterans and wasted money.

According to a report by the Department of Veterans Affairs' Office of Inspector General, agency employees were requiring veterans undergo unnecessary reexaminations before approving the continuation of their benefits, making it more difficult for veterans in need of treatment and wasting millions of taxpayer dollars.

From The Washington Post:

> “While reexaminations are important in the appropriate situation to ensure taxpayer dollars are appropriately spent, unwarranted reexaminations cause undue hardship for veterans,” the report said. “They also generate excessive work, resulting in significant costs and the diversion of VA personnel from veteran care and services.”

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> Based on its study, the inspector general estimated employees sought unwarranted reexaminations in 19,800 cases out of 53,500, during the March-August 2017 review period. That’s 37 percent and means undue hardship for lots of people.

VA press secretary Curt Cashour told the Post that the department’s goal is “to ensure all Veterans receive the benefits to which they are entitled under the law”, adding that while the department apologizes “for any inconvenience to the affected Veterans, these exams were meant to ensure VA was meeting that goal.”

But the inconvenience to veterans is just one part of the problem — demanding unnecessary reexaminations also wastes a lot of money.

> During the six-month review period, the Veterans Benefits Administration, a component of the department, spent $10.1 million on unwarranted reexaminations. “The review team estimated that VBA would waste $100.6 million on unwarranted reexaminations over the next five years,” the report says, “unless it ensures that employees only request reexaminations when necessary.”

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> Reexaminations are not necessary when veterans qualify for exclusions, including having a permanent disability or a disability that has not substantially improved over five years. “VBA policy requires employees to exercise prudent judgment in determining the need for reexaminations by requesting them only when necessary, and making every effort to limit those requests,” according to the inspector general.

The report flagged 15,500 cases out of 19,800 — or 78 percent — where an appropriate pre-exam review was lacking.

> Managers sent work to lower-level employees “who lacked the training and experience necessary to make accurate determinations about whether a reexamination was warranted.” Veterans service representatives were tasked with making reexamination decisions, but 14 of the 24 staffers interviewed by the inspector general’s office said “they were unfamiliar with the criteria for determining whether a reexamination was necessary.”

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