In yet another blow to VA Secretary Robert McDonald, a new report revealed the department has mismanaged claims for thousands of veterans who were due benefits, pensions, and funeral assistance.
CBS News reported Tuesday that 13,841 veterans sent the Oakland, Calif., VA inquiries about veteran’s benefits that were stored in a file cabinet and ignored for years. The Veterans Benefits Administration ignored these letters even though they were required by law to respond with an application.
In thousands of cases, veterans passed away without getting any response from the VA.
Dory Stafford showed her letter from the VA responding to a claim her husband made in 2004. The ten-year response time is not the only problem: The VA’s letter came seven years after her husband’s death. Stafford never knew the benefits or pension her husband was due, was never helped with funeral arrangements, and did not even receive the traditional American flag when a veteran dies.
Rusty Anne Brown was one of five whistleblowers that brought to light the VA’s wrongdoing. Brown was told to illegally hide the claims she was assigned to process. In one case, a veteran was owed $36,000.
"The VA didn't help them. The VA didn't care about them. They took them, put them in a file and stuffed them away," Brown said.
At least six VA offices in major cities have had serious problems with losing and discarding files. Investigations have shown that these offices have intentionally hid files and then also covered up their illegal actions.
So what is the VA’s explanation for these atrocities? The department said their transfer from a mail-based system to an electronic delivery system led to more accountability, but added growing pains. The VA now claims that such horrible mistakes are no longer as prevalent with their new recordkeeping operation and point to the backlog of claims reduced to 500,000 as a sign of improvement.
However, to take that number would mean to trust the VA’s record-keeping, the very system that caused nationwide disgust and anger.