The 1989 VJRA Fiscal cliff for VA is well known. It had become so clannish and dysfunctional as to be rife with delays. Sound familiar?
As the CAVC became entrenched and the delays grew anew, VA promised to expedite, hire more personnel, and streamline the process. The BVA promptly geared up for the expected onslaught by ordering more martini shakers.
By 1994, things were getting pretty slippery where a six month delay was the norm for an uncomplicated claim. VA screamed for more of everything to “right the cart”. BVA disbanded three-judge panels and permitted new “single judge” boards consisting of one (1) (uno) judge. This immediately produced sixty “Boards” where there were only twenty. VAROs geared up by training several new raters every year.
By 2000, nothing had really changed. As with the schools system, more money was thrown at the problem but with new wars came new, injured Vets. A spate of new hospital spending on the VHA side was instituted but was delayed for far too long. “More money!” they shouted down at 810 Vermin Ave. NW. And Congress obliged. More raters were hired and training began in earnest. Bonuses were offerred to entice workers to become more productive. Eventually they were proffered just to get raters to come in to work. Starbucks® Coffee shops were collocated in VAROs to increase productivity. Suggestion boxes were installed in restrooms.
Claims once again began to pile up and a loud cry and hue arose over how poorly VA was doing their job. Gold-plated VHA facilities were coming on line but yet the claims backlog continued. Extensive studies were funded and investigators investigated. They concluded that the VA was simply underpopulated and needed more involved, committed “stakeholders” who were willing to improve the system. Congressional hearings were held and it was determined that more money was needed to keep up with the influx of new Veterans. Congress grudgingly complied but asked if this was the proper cure. Assured by the highest Agency talking heads that the logjam was less than a year from being solved, more funds were allocated. More raters were hired with an expected on-line status of two years.
Along about 2010, everyone was assured that responsible stakeholders had stepped up to the plate and large numbers of new mental health workers were going to stem the high tide of suicides accumulating. Homeless Vets, too, were seated at the big table. Women Vets, long neglected, began to see clinics opening that catered specifically to them. Still the dogged problem of backlogged claims persisted. It was felt that due to the propensity of Vets to start claiming everything but the kitchen sink, they were being unreasonable and bogging down the system. This nine or ten claims-per-Vet thing was getting out of hand. Backlogs were now growing in numbers unforeseen and medical facilities found themselves in over their heads. Few wanted to work for the much-vaunted VHA due to their increasingly poor reputation and miserly wages. Even extensive TV advertising failed to fill the breech. Suicides increased while homelessness abated. Once again, the call went out: “Mo’ money, honey.”
Congress was fit to be tied. The more gold-plated the machine, the slower it traveled. The more personnel hired and bonuses administered, the larger the backlog and the time required to adjudicate an ingrown toenail. After additional hearings and lots of acrimony, Under Secretary of Apologies Allison A. Hickey did her best mea culpas before the Inquisition. Promises were made and gifts were exchanged. 2015 was now being touted as the magic year for resolution. Fabulous predictions of 125 days (or less!) claims resolution in a modern, paperless society all from the comfort and privacy of one’s own home were foretold. Trees could breathe a sigh of relief. Global warming would abate. Our dependence on foreign oil would become a distant memory. Ebenefits was the wave of the future. MyhealthEvet predicted their system would very soon have all our records a keystroke away. In fact, by 2015 technology would be so precise as to guarantee a 98% chance of accuracy. DBQs would make new claims all the more precise and accurate. Everyone rejoiced except the Vets.
So, here we are at the cusp of 2013. The backlog stands at 1.25 million claims with new ones coming in droves daily. Accuracy, in reality, is currently about 30% and falling like a winter low pressure system coming in.
Victor Alpha, ever optimistic, sees things differently.
I eagerly await the new stakeholders’ explanations for the disparity in all these prognostications. I also smell Eouija on the 2015 horizon.
Download your VA Ebenefit phone app to track your claim here. Takes you directly to ULUZ@va.gov
If we had smartphones, I’d try the app. But our cell is pretty basic. If free public WI-FI service was available everywhere, I would get one. There’s no reason why all publicly-funded buildings can’t put public WI-FI nodes near windows so that the public can pick up a signal without a password.