- The Washington Times - Friday, June 6, 2014

The Veterans Affairs Department could pay out $450 million in disability payments to veterans who don’t qualify because no one is reviewing medical records, a report released Friday said.

As of January, the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) had already paid out $85 million covering almost half of its claims that “lacked adequate medical evidence,” said a report by the agency’s internal watchdog, the Inspector General.

And if the agency doesn’t take action, it could risk another $371 million over the next five years.

The issue centers on payments to veterans who have been evaluated with 100 percent disability. Fortunately, the diagnosis of complete disability is usually temporary, and veterans are suppose to have a second evaluation to determine their more long-term disability rate.

The problem is that out of 8,300 temporary 100 percent disability ratings that were suppose to be looked at a second time, almost 88 percent of them have never gotten a second glance.

“To correct the systemic problem that leads to veterans receiving long-term payments to which they may not be entitled, VBA needs to take action to ensure each claim for temporary 100 percent disability evaluation has a future exam date entered in the veterans’ electronic record,” the IG said.

“VBA rarely attempts to recover any monies paid to the veteran in error and does not have processes in place to mitigate improper payments,” investigators added.

The VA said they launched a new effort in February to better control the exam process, and believe they have cut down the number of pending reviews by nearly 60 percent.

“VBA believes that it has met the requirement to both identify and put a plan in place to take action on Veterans’ records requiring a future examination and potential adjustment,” the department said.

The report is a follow up to an investigation conducted in 2011, and inspectors found little improvement had been made in the intervening three years.

The IG said that once a veteran has been rated 100 percent disabled for 20 years, the VA cannot legally reduce the benefits the vet receives unless they are able to prove direct fraud.

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