Both California Senators, and 32 members of the California Democratic Congressional Delegation, sent a letter today calling on Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary Eric Shinseki to immediately address serious delays and troubling veterans claims processing problems at VA Regional Offices (VAROs) in California. In the letter they refer to recent VA Office of the Inspector General (IG) reports, telling Secretary Shinseki:
"Unfortunately, it is clear that high error rates are a serious problem in California VAROs, and that these problems are most often due to ineffective oversight by management and incorrect interpretation of VA guidelines by staff."
The investigation revealed 97% of the disability claims reviewed by the IG in the Los Angeles VARO were incorrectly processed. Similarly, 77% of the disability claims in the San Diego VARO and over half of those at the Oakland VARO reviewed by the IG were incorrectly processed. Just as troubling, the investigation revealed about half of the traumatic brain injury case evaluations at all three facilities reviewed by the IG were processed incorrectly. California VAROs may also have deprived Gulf War Veterans of their opportunity to receive mental health treatments from the VA.
The two Senators and 32 Representatives told Secretary Shinseki "Given the severity of the situation faced by California veterans waiting to receive their benefits, we ask that you provide us the following:
The steps being taken to immediately ensure that VAROs in California properly address the IG's recommendations, including how staff will be held accountable for their performance.
The follow-up actions that will be taken to ensure California VAROs are improving in their performance.
An understanding of why the Los Angeles VARO is currently in what is referred to as "safe mode," which means that staff are not held accountable to VA standards."