WASHINGTON — In a rush to cut a huge backlog of claims for disability benefits, the Department of Veterans Affairs is making payments to tens of thousands of veterans without adequate medical evidence that they deserve the benefits, the department's inspector general's office said Monday.
Without improvements, the VA could make unsupported payments to veterans totaling about $371 million over the next five years for claims of 100 percent disability alone, said Linda Halliday, an assistant inspector general.
The IG's office also found widespread problems at VA regional offices in Philadelphia and Baltimore, including mail bins full of disability claims and associated evidence that had not been electronically scanned for three years.
Spot inspections revealed that VA also made errors in one in four claims involving traumatic brain injury, Halliday told the House Veterans Affairs Committee. "Improved financial stewardship at the agency is needed," she said.
Special initiatives designed to remove older claims and speed processing of new claims are worthwhile, Halliday said, but in some cases they "have had an adverse impact on other workload areas such as appeals management and benefits reductions."