A new government watchdog report has confirmed that Veterans Affairs management in Wichita, Kansas told employees to manipulate appealed claims, with the initial whistleblower alleging this was done to “improve timeliness measures.”
Management at the Veterans Affairs Regional Office in Wichita instructed staff to enter Notices of Disagreement (NOD) with inaccurate data into the electronic records system for appeals. A NOD is what a veteran files to complete the first step of the appeals process, and the document describes a disagreement with a decision on benefits.
The findings were brutal. All 36 appeal files examined by investigators were shot through with manipulated data.
“Specifically, staff did not accurately enter the correct medical conditions that the veterans were appealing. For all 36 cases, VARO staff used DC 5000—the code used for osteomyelitis,” the IG report states. “However, none of the veterans with the 36 appealed claims had osteomyelitis.”
A total of 28 of the 36 appeal files did not comply with Veterans Benefits Administration policy, and according to the IG report, this failure has the “potential to affect the timeliness of claims processing actions.” Some of the claims contained numerous errors.
“Development actions” on average for the 28 cases were delayed 242 days.
“Based on our examination of a total 36 pending NODs in VACOLS established with a DC 5000 and interviews conducted, we substantiated the allegation that Wichita VARO management instructed staff to enter inaccurate appeals data into VACOLS,” the IG report read.
Investigators blamed the problem of “data integrity” on non-existent management oversight and poor guidance.
“Secretary McDonald and other top officials keep asking veterans to trust that things are getting better at the VA, but these reports prove otherwise,” Concerned Veterans for America Press Secretary John Cooper told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “Whether it’s enduring years of uncertainty when their appeals are wrongly moved to the back of the line, or having their appeals doctored and delayed, veterans are right to question whether the VA is doing everything it can to keep its promise to them, and to hold its employees accountable. It’s time for VA leaders to embrace real reform and do their part to stop this cycle of failure.”
Cross-posted from the Daily Caller