Our veterans here in Ohio are treated with care and respect by our communities, but what about our federal government? The Department of Veterans Affairs has been brought under criticism over the years for numerous reasons. In recent years, the quality of medical care provided by VA has improved tremendously, something that I can attest to personally. While the VA has made fantastic strides in access to timely quality healthcare, the system for evaluating and awarding disability claims for our nation’s heroes has been revealed as a much needed area for improvement. Many people may not be aware that the Department of Veterans Affairs is divided in to two branches, VHA (Veterans Health Administration) and VBA (Veterans Benefits Administration). Here in Ohio, VBA’s track record for recognizing and compensating those wounded warriors has been admittedly substandard on internal reports by VA itself.
As recently as 2004, during the ever present war on terror being waged, VBA has fallen short in Ohio.
The VA Office of the Inspector General reported on disability claim inconsistencies, particularly payments for fiscal year 2004 that ranked Ohio as third lowest in the nation, coming in more than $1300.00 less than that of the national average for compensation of a disabled veteran. This doesn’t even take into account the medical benefit that the veteran may receive thru VHA, after all, disability ratings are figured in percentages and in the case of those rated at less than 50%, there are additional medical costs being shouldered by private insurance and/or copayments for prescription drugs paid for by those very veterans who are disabled.
At times, the level of payment isn’t as much an issue as it is the case of wounded veterans who have never had their disability properly rated or even awarded.
In the Audit of Veterans Benefits Administration Compensation Rating Accuracy and Consistency Reviews by VAOIG in 2009, VBA reported an 87 percent accuracy rate in processing and awarding veteran disability claims. The Office of the Inspector General revealed a 77 percent accuracy rate, a ten percent discrepancy in the reported data from VBA. For years the VAOIG has recognized that there are ineffective measures in play within VBA, and while a few things have changed, audits such as these still turn up statistics that reveal a long road to travel.
Can we really expect our nation’s heroes to write blank checks for us payable up to and including, their lives, yet allow these deficits to continue once it is our turn to serve them? Time and again, there has been recognition to the fact that the system by which veterans are assessed and awarded, or denied, disability ratings by VBA, is laced with error and inadequacy, yet little has changed in light of this. We really need to be doing it better. It’s not only noble to care for our wounded veterans, it sends the world a message that reaffirms what America stands for.