VA Accountability

March 17, 2020 by in Industry News, VA Accountability

“I have all the evidence, the VA just keeps denying me! I don’t get it! What am I missing?”

How many times have you said this? Don’t forget to count the times you’ve said it while waiting for your VA appointment or those times over a drink at the Legion. 

This is a daily conversation we have at Valor 4 Vet. We know how aggravating the VA disability claims process is. If ‘aggravating’ is even the right word to describe it…

“Your VA disability decision is dependent upon which way the wind blows or if the sun came up today,” is often Bethanie’s response when discussing the VA’s decision process. Bethanie, a former Compensation and Pension examiner and veteran advocate, feels that the biggest fault in the VA system is the lack of accountability at the VA Regional Office, or VARO. 

“Not only is the process mentally exhausting but it also creates anger towards the VA system as a whole,” says Bethanie. She goes on to say:

“Your primary care doctor at the VA is told not to write a Nexus Letter. Your primary care doctor at the VA is told not to fill out a DBQ. Your civilian primary care doctor doesn’t know how to help. You’ve submitted a Nexus Letter but the VA is still denying you. You’ve submitted a DBQ but the VA won’t give you an increase.”

Years go by with denial after denial. After what seems like a last resort, you hire an attorney and wait…

Like a bump on a log.

We wish this example was a rare occurrence but it happens every. single. day.

For a better understanding of the problem, you should know that the VA does not have a system in place to verify that the rating individual, or “rater”, deciding your claim is applying the law correctly. How do you know that the rater is doing their job correctly if you never check their work? The rater could deny every claim for a month and no one bats an eye.

Let’s say you go to your doctor and get diagnosed with high blood pressure. Then your doctor prescribes medication for you to take but you never check your blood pressure at home and never go back for a follow up visit.

​How do you know that your blood pressure medication is doing it’s job correctly if you never check your blood pressure?

Implementing a system to verify the rater is doing their job correctly would be a start to developing accountability at the VARO. 

In 2018, an investigation by the VA Office of Inspector General found the VA mishandled 1,300 claims for military sexual trauma during five months in 2017 — rejecting the claims without due diligence.

Image by Bruno Aguirre

50% of the claims for military sexual trauma were incorrectly processed by the VA.

Why does it take an investigation to find that the claims were processed incorrectly? There should be a system in place to prevent this.

​The results of the 2018 investigation were discussed at a hearing on Capitol Hill on June 20, 2019. The purpose of the hearing was to discuss passing legislation to lower the burden of proof for veterans who experienced military sexual trauma.  

​Willie Clark, the deputy undersecretary for field operations with the Veterans Benefits Administration, testified during the hearing opposing the change citing the high cost of approving the claims.

Just 2 weeks before the hearing on Capitol Hill, Willie Clark presented at the 2019 NACVSO annual conference (National Association of Country Veteran Service Officers). During the presentation Mr. Clark preached about one goal at the VBA being “accountability” with a top-down approach. 

Wrong.

Accountability doesn’t permeate like the jello in a poke cake. 

When his presentation was completed, he took the hot seat for questions.

The Q & A session didn’t start well. There was an uproar of laughter from the hundreds of Veteran Service Officers in attendance from across the country when Mr. Clark quoted the VA Benefits Hotline phone number as a resource for the VSOs to use.   

Image by Priscilla Du Preez

​The next question came from Bethanie Spangenberg. 

“I am happy to hear you talk about accountability at the VBA. But what about the accountability for the Compensation and Pension Examiners at the VA?,” Bethanie asked.

The crowd applauded in support of the question but Mr. Clark’s response didn’t answer the question.

His response seemed more like a defense stating that the VBA “…grants thousands of decisions each year.”

The real answer came when just 2 weeks later he opposed changes that would benefit the veteran citing the high cost of approving claims.

​​Answer: Cost Control.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t sound like the accountability problem at the VARO will be addressed anytime soon. 

“Why have laws in place that require no accountability?,” Bethanie asks.  

​​With that, Bethanie has established quality standards for the work produced by Valor 4 Vet’s Medical Experts.

Bethanie adds, “The quality standards are in place to combat the VAROs denial tactics. We will change those standards if we find the VARO has a new denial pattern.” 

​​At Valor 4 Vet, we understand your aggravation with the VA disability claims process. You are not alone. We are here to help fill part of the gap that the VA doesn’t account for in the Compensation and Pension process.  

Let your conversation at the Legion be different next time. 

Call us today to tell us your VA story and see how we can help you be successful with your VA disability claim. 

 

 

Updated March 18, 2020

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