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VA Field Office Audit Finds Errors in Disability Payments, Failure to Offer Mental Disorder Treatment

A report released Thursday from the Veterans Administration Office of Inspector General found several shortcomings at the VA’s San Diego regional field office.

While most of the seven areas of findings were related to clerical issues such as mail processing, two more significant items were raised, with concern over whether Gulf War veterans were being properly notified as to their eligibility for mental health treatment and in the accuracy of disability claims.

On the disability issue, the audit found errors in 53 percent of the 79 disability claims sampled, overpaying some veterans by $335,764 and underpaying others $25,717. At the time of the field office inspection, the official stated goal was 92 percent accuracy in claims processing, a figure which has since been revised downward to 87 percent.

Reviewers also found that in the case of 16 Gulf War veterans, out of 30 total files reviewed, staff did not address whether the service members were entitled to receive treatment for mental disorders. Representatives said that reviewing eligibility for such benefits was a task “easy to overlook,” despite pop-up notifications reminding them to do so.

“The majority of staff and management we interviewed felt the pop-up notification was not effective as it was easy to ignore,” the audit states. In eight of the 16 cases where benefit consideration was missed, employees’ computer systems had specifically reminded them to make a benefit determination.

A high point of the report commended the field office for its outreach to homeless shelters and other homeless services providers. Local office directors are working to develop a plan to address the concern items noted.

A complete copy of the report is available here.

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A report released Thursday from the Veterans Administration Office of Inspector General found several shortcomings at the VA’s San Diego regional field office.

While most of the seven areas of findings were related to clerical issues such as mail processing, two more significant items were raised, with concern over whether Gulf War veterans were being properly notified as to their eligibility for mental health treatment and in the accuracy of disability claims.

On the disability issue, the audit found errors in 53 percent of the 79 disability claims sampled, overpaying some veterans by $335,764 and underpaying others $25,717. At the time of the field office inspection, the official stated goal was 92 percent accuracy in claims processing, a figure which has since been revised downward to 87 percent.

Reviewers also found that in the case of 16 Gulf War veterans, out of 30 total files reviewed, staff did not address whether the service members were entitled to receive treatment for mental disorders. Representatives said that reviewing eligibility for such benefits was a task “easy to overlook,” despite pop-up notifications reminding them to do so.

“The majority of staff and management we interviewed felt the pop-up notification was not effective as it was easy to ignore,” the audit states. In eight of the 16 cases where benefit consideration was missed, employees’ computer systems had specifically reminded them to make a benefit determination.

A high point of the report commended the field office for its outreach to homeless shelters and other homeless services providers. Local office directors are working to develop a plan to address the concern items noted.

A complete copy of the report is available here.

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