Written by: Chelsea King

On September 10, news broke of another VA records doctoring scandal: this time, at the Board of Veterans Appeals (BVA), the appellate court that handles benefit claims appeals.  Whistleblower Kelli Kordich testified before Congress and exposed the BVA’s manipulation of records in order to keep long delays under wraps.  She also testified that BVA decisions sat on board heads’ desks for hundreds of days only needing a mere signature.  BVA leaders, however, denied the allegations, saying that the delay is a result of overwork.

Two Senators on the Senate Armed Services Committee specifically called out the VA regarding this in a letter to Secretary McDonald on September 17.  One of their proposed solutions is to “make better use of [the] Decision Review Officers” at the Regional Offices.  This statement is a good example of how Congress does not understand the VA.  While it would be great to have more Decision Review Officers (DROs), the priority at the Regional Office level should be to employ competent DROs who are able to handle the intellectual and time rigors of the job.  Without good DROs, the BVA’s backlog will just be increased, leading to more “overwork.”

The BVA news hits close to home here at the Puller Clinic.  Many veterans who had claims decided against them at the Regional Office level have been waiting for many years to hear back from the BVA.  The average wait time for a veteran’s appeal is three years, even before news of the records doctoring broke.  The news is especially disheartening given how much veterans rely on the BVA to provide a more thorough review of their cases and to correct inaccuracies that exist from Regional Office review.

Hopefully Ms. Kordich’s testimony will ignite change in the VA at the appellate level.  While it is important for the Regional Offices to improve, it is just—if not more—important that the BVA runs smoothly and efficiently, since the appellate court reviews appeals from the entire nation’s veterans and is able to overturn Regional Office rulings on benefits claims.

 

Sources:

  1. Travis Tritten, Whistleblower Claims Records Manipulation by VA Appeals Board, Stars And Stripes (Sept. 10, 2014), http://www.stripes.com/news/whistleblower-claims-records-manipulation-by-va-appeals-board-1.302377.
  2. Leo Shane, Mismanagement Alleges at VA Appeals Board, Military Times (Sept. 10, 2014), http://www.militarytimes.com/article/20140910/NEWS05/309100060/Mismanagement-alleged-VA-appeals-board.
  3. Shaheen, Ayotte Call for Investigation Into Board of Veterans Appeals Backlog, Press Release (Sept. 17, 2014), http://www.shaheen.senate.gov/news/press/release/?id=3fdf8d20-7358-4462-8cff-1adf804b4850.

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