VA-HOLD THE BINOCULARS BACKWARDS, PLEASE


imagesSometimes, they really must take us for dolts, complete boobs or functionally illiterate, double -digit IQ  quirks of society legally licensed to drive automobiles. Children in adult suits if you will. This kind of three card Monte game is the most dangerous when someone fails to point out that we aren’t in Kansas anymore, Toto. Really? All of a sudden, the backlog has decreased, perceived accuracy has increased to a phenomenal 90 % and the average time for a claim is 179 days? Of course, taking a bow, they are amazed they have not yet reduced it to the projected 145 days? In accountantspeak, this is called making the elephant disappear up its own asshole. It’s a physical impossibility everywhere except 810 Yellowbrick Ave. NW, Wash. DC 20420.

VFW Deputy Grand Poohbah Gerald Manar  put it quite succinctly when he said:

“Today there are over 1.7 million compensation, pension and education claims and appeals. Instead of fully fixing the problem, VA leaders have redefined them,” he said. “Since VA couldn’t reduce the entire 1.7 million by 2015, they decided to define the workload as only disability claims requiring rating action.”

Which means, gentle readers, that the VA, not Congress or the public, is in charge of the Miriam Webster Dictionary. Claims are hyphenated like women now. You know. Used to be the simple Miz Arthur. Now it’s Mrs.  Mavi (silent a,accent on second syllable, puleeezze) Arthur-Dreyfus. Much the same, a VA Claim of yore has metamorphosed into a plethora of interesting sublets. Alphabetic ones (DBQ, FDC, PDQ, POW, DIC), presumptive claims for Agent Orange, simple claims, complex clams, dependency claims, burial benefits, education claims, insurance requests and then, of course, Appeals.

But when you partition Claims as a general category into claims with prefixes and suffixes, the landscape becomes blurred and miscommunication at high levels occurs:

longestIn recent months, VA has made significant progress in executing our benefit claims Transformation Plan. We reduced the backlog by approximately 36 percent since March of this year, and we expect these reductions to continue over the next year. More importantly, while increasing our productivity, we have also increased the quality of our work. In June 2011, when I arrived, our average for claims accuracy was approximately 83 percent; as of the end of November 2013, that number was approximately 90 percent. When measuring accuracy at the medical issue level –
which is a more precise measure of VA’s workload – our rating accuracy today stands at 97 percent. My testimony today will focus on how execution of our Transformation Plan has decreased the backlog and increased quality, resulting in better service to the Veteran community and pushing us closer to the Secretary’s goal of all claims completed in 125 days at 98-percent accuracy in 2015.

 You do have to hand it to USB Hickey. She aptly called it a “benefit claims Transformation Plan. She simply transformed the character and number of the claims. If this keeps up, we’ll have claims done to 150% accuracy before we actually file them. We can do away with the CAVC.   Maybe in 2016, VA will be launching what will be touted as the NSA claim.   A program by VA’s finest IT crews, who brought you the DBQ and the VBMS, will have partnered with the NSA who now is monitoring our social constructs and text messaging/phone calls.  Veterans help sites and other watering holes like this will be carefully perused to accomplish this feat. They will be able to decipher any informal claims we may harbor thoughts of filing. This will automatically provoke the filing of the claim and a denial decision will arrive in the mail a short time later. This has a twofold purpose. An inordinately large number of Veterans are employed by the United States Postal Service so this will protect civil service jobs. Secondly, it will help boost the bottom line at the USPS as well. They’ve been running in the red since about 1919 in case nobody noticed.

I really don’t mind getting lied to. I don’t mind having the wool pulled over my eyes. But when a maladroit magician comes on stage and can’t even find his rabbit in the hat and pulls out a picture of one, I become a little peeved. VA has no plan to produce a 125-day decision with 98% accuracy any more than I have a plan for global warming. I’ll make a prediction. If–a big if–VA could keep the VBMS up and running at something over 3 Mbps, they might be lucky to get a 125 day, 38% accuracy out the door by 2018. That assumes we don’t enter the fray on the ground in Syria with all our new-found Muslim friends there. If that happens, all bets are off.

images (1)Having witnessed not one, not two, but about four or more “complete transformations of how we do business” in the last 8 years, I vote for India. At least they answer the phone when you call. And more appropriately, at least they give out a number to call. Ever tried playing knock on the Castle door at your VARO? I know the prefix code at the Seattle RO now. It’s  253-220-XXXX. Hell, you just start inventing the last four and eventually you hit someone and say “Hey. You don’t sound like Christine Cringle. Who is this?” Idiot’s delight. They just give you the right number.  Pick out a name here.  I swear it’s like playing with kids in adult suits.

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4 Responses to VA-HOLD THE BINOCULARS BACKWARDS, PLEASE

  1. Bruce says:

    Kyemo you are so correct…..its a giant house party that will never stop because noone wants to be held accountable. Almost like the movie “Weekend at Bernie’s” , someone is always propping up the lifeless VA!

  2. Jim says:

    Cheaper to litigate and ignore the total cost of war. The current VA promotes the Washington machinery and status quo. Socializes war and removes the cost away from the Pentagon budget. The invention of the VA department with the VJRA Act simply divorced that part of the fed from the Pentagon’s operating expenses. WWII was won without a department elevation and secretary. Maybe the secretary and cabinet should be riff’ed and reduced back to agency size and placed back under the former. VA law got contaminated in the gene pool with civil, criminal and corporate law and away from “average” individual of a honorably discharged service member. Sonny Montgomery where have you gone, heaven or hell?

  3. Frank says:

    In Sweden, left-hand traffic was customary from 1734 through 1915; in 1916 it became law, putting Sweden officially out of synch with neighbouring countries.

    For 50 years thereafter (perhaps because it was “unacceptable” to be odd man out?), Swedes debated whether to go with the flow, and right won. See: http://www.wired.com/rawfile/2014/02/throwback-thursday-sweden/

    On March 3, 13, 2007, Linda J. Bilmes, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, testified before the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs. See: http://veterans.house.gov/witness-testimony/ms-linda-j-bilmes

    In part, (non-contiguously) she had this to say:

    “First, the VBA is currently overwhelmed with the volume of claims it is receiving, leading to a huge backlog.”

    “Second, the claims process itself is long, cumbersome and paperwork-intensive. The VBA takes an average of 177 days (about 6 months) to process an initial claim, and an average of 657 days (about 2 years) to process an appeal. This is 22% below the agency’s own target goal of 145 days. It is also far below the standards of the private sector medical insurance industry, which settles 30 million insurance claims — including appeals — within an average of 89.5 days…..
    I believe that the agency as currently structured is simply not capable of settling the current and projected volume of claims in a timely manner.”

    “I believe that finding an answer to the claims problem requires us to think outside the box. I would like to offer several proposals that do this.

    1. First, for the next two years, the VBA should accept and pay all disability claims by returning GWOT soldiers at face value — and then audit a sample of them. This is essentially the same system that is used elsewhere in government, for example, the IRS for taxes and the SEC for filings. This idea would involve retraining some of the claims specialists as auditors, freeing up the remaining specialists to focus on assisting non GWOT veterans claims, which should reduce the backlog of old claims. At the same time, this bold step would ensure that new claimants do not fall through the cracks or endure months of bureaucratic delay.

    2. Second, the VBA should replace the cumbersome 0-100 scale for disabilities with a simple four-level ranking: zero disabled, low disability, medium disability, and high disability. This would immediately streamline the process, reduce discrepancies between regions, and likely cut the number of appeals. The VBA should create a “short form” for returning veterans, using this four-level ranking and set a goal of processing all claims within 60 days of receipt. This new system should be up and running within two years, including retraining of the workforce and developing necessary guidelines and appeals procedures.”

    This commenter: The disability clams backlog, appeals backlog, error-rate are all “unacceptable.” (Is anyone, anywhere on record saying otherwise?) VA has been promising, by a date certain, to do better. With their track record, would you stake your life on it?

    VA has clearly been “driving on the wrong side of the road” – it’s out-of-synch with its “neighbors,” i.e., the private sector medical insurance industry, IRS & SEC.

    VA is long overdue to stand down, discard the broken system that has lead to the current debacle, and start anew.

    Forthwith.

  4. kyemo says:

    I cant even comment……. corruption and incompentacy is so pervasive….its like a summerschool beach party and the teacher is on vacation in Paris France with no intentions of returning.
    They just party on, while we watch with our jaws on the ground.
    Is anyone responsible in charge?
    I mean, anyone accountable?

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