As expected, the OIG review of the Little Rock Arkansas VARO didn’t fare any better than others sampled this past year. A sixty percent error rate on TDIU and a 22 percent one on some of the most difficult claims illustrates vA still doesn’t know what it is they were hired to do. Fortunately this will all be cleared up in 2015 when they just deny everything and eliminate error as we know it.
Sadly, the rush to appease Congress will result in another hernia in the vA adjudication process. This bulge is predicted at the BvA level when all these newly denied claims start arriving on appeal in 2013-16. As most know, vA has not increased the number of Veterans Law Judges appreciably over the years to keep up with the onslaught. What they have done is grant provisional authority to some of the munchkins and allow them to play dress-up Judge for a day on some of the more mundane rulings that were never in the running for controversy.
How the excuse will be formulated and sold to the Veterans and the American public is still up in the air. The ‘We didn’t see it coming” excuse is wearing thin even now as we speak. Since the BvA and the RO system is all part and parcel of the same DvA, it will be hard on the one hand to say they couldn’t foresee the glut of denied claims at the ROs metastasizing into a glut of appeals at the BvA.
It’s becoming more and more apparent that Veterans are actually taking the vA up on their promise to aid those who bore the battle and their dependents. It is also axiomatic that when unjustly denied, these same souls are not going quietly into the night like we did in the 70s when we discovered how hollow the promise was. Veterans today are empowered and are not impressed with smoke and mirrors. In fact, these new Veterans are in this for more than a vA home loan and a burial flag. No more can vA get away with giving you a new place to lay your head for eternity and calling it good to go.
Today’s Veterans are becoming a chore and a bore for vA. In past wars we filed for several claims-not the 7-15 ailments the new breed demands remuneration for. Simply ginning up the denial mill and cranking out the “Dear John” letters isn’t dissuading them from filing appeals in record numbers. Where once ten NODs would eventually result in one appeal at the BvA, this number is rising at a fast and furious pace. As Rome catches fire, Nero continues to observe with nonchalance and an air of indifference. The culture of “We’ll deal with it when it gets here” is everywhere in sight with nary a plan for the impending catastrophe in the making. Sound familiar? It should. This has been the modus operandi since the sixties.
As hidebound as vA is about this, one thing is certain. When the tsunami of claims appeals finally inundates Vermont Avenue NW, everyone there will look up from their desks and collective gasp “What’s this? Did anyone see it building? What will we do? Will this impact our bonuses? Will the vA hire my brother-in-law? Where will we put all the extra desks?”
As short-sighted as we are about our government and a propensity to disremember history, it strikes me that the Vets are not going to give the BvA a by on this. We have 9 judges authorized up at the Court now. They are the future recipients of the next lump in the python when this leaves the BvA. If POTUS sees fit to give them the ninth judge. they’ll still be underwater for decades trying to dispense with the backlog. Kicking the can down the road on the National Debt didn’t work any better than doing it with Social Security. What makes them think the vA’s impending backlog at the next two levels is no less a disaster in the making? A reckoning is coming on this even if myopic thinking fails to envision it. Sadly, once again Veterans will be left holding the bag and told to be patient.
Been there. Done that. Thanks for the flag, the loan, the memories and the haven of eternal rest. Now, about the compensation…