Berkley Successful In Convincing VA Not To Investigate 72,000 PTSD Claims
Clerical Errors, Not Fraud to Blame for Missing Claim Documents
Congresswoman Shelley Berkley (D-NV) today praised a decision by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) not to review the benefits awarded to 72,000 veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
"Scrutinizing more than 72,000 PTSD cases that have already been decided would have been unfair to our veterans, especially in light of the fact that clerical errors, and not fraud, were found to be the cause of concern. I am particularly pleased that this decision was reached as our nation prepares to recognize the service and sacrifice of millions of Americans this Veterans Day. PTSD may not be as visible as other battle wounds, but its impact on those who have been diagnosed, and their loved ones, can be just as painful and as permanent as any physical injury," said Berkley, who serves as the Ranking Democrat on the House Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs.
The announcement that no review of the veterans' claims would take place was in response to the efforts of Berkley and others on the House Veterans' Affairs Committee who sought to protect those diagnosed with the stress disorder from unwarranted scrutiny of their mental health claims. Berkley noted that during a recent hearing on the issue, the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs heard testimony concerning one New Mexico veteran who had committed suicide after expressing concerns about the proposed VA review and another who was stopped by family members from an attempted suicide.
Berkley's effort earned the praise of Veterans' Affairs Committee Ranking Democrat Lane Evans (D-IL), who noted the persistent advocacy of two Committee members - Rep. Berkley and Rep. Tom Udall (D- NM) - was instrumental in bringing attention to the risks posed by the proposed review and in bringing about its termination.
"Shelley is an outspoken champion for her veterans in Las Vegas and throughout the Nation, and Tom shared with the committee his personal knowledge of the suffering endured by New Mexico veterans whose claims had been subjected to an earlier review and those who feared, even without justification, that their benefits would be taken away," said Evans.
According to the VA, On May 19, 2005, the Department's Inspector General reported on an examination of the files of a sample of 2,100 randomly selected veterans with disability ratings for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The IG cited insufficient documentation in the files and a dramatic increase in veterans filing for disability compensation for post-traumatic stress disorder since 1999. However, further examination found that rather than fraud, clerical error was to blame for the questions raised in the IG report.