By Sandra Basu
WASHINGTON —With a potential billion dollars at stake, the VA is under fire for not addressing overpayments to veterans with temporary disability ratings whose conditions are not re-evaluated in a timely manner.
At a hearing earlier this year, the chairman of a VA Senate subcommittee called it “unacceptable” that veterans who were temporarily rated as 100% disabled were overpaid by VA when follow-up medical exams were not requested.
These temporary disability ratings are used when veterans with service-connected disabilities undergo surgery or when other specific treatments are needed. The Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) is then required to request a follow-up medical exam to determine whether to continue the veteran’s temporary rating. Without the exams, veterans continue to receive payments, usually higher, at the temporary rating level, even if they are not at that disability level.
Projections in a January 2011 VA Inspector General’s report estimated that VBA had not correctly processed claims for about 27,500 veterans with temporary 100% ratings since January 1993, resulting in net overpayments of $943 million.
Without “timely corrective action,” the VA IG predicted that VBA could overpay disabled veterans a projected $1.1 billion from 2011 to 2015.
Rep. Jon Runyan, (R-NJ), chairman of the Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs, said he continues to be concerned because two new Regional Office audits issued by the OIG as recently as January found that 50% of the temporary 100% disability evaluations reviewed were incorrect.
“As all of us here today are aware, our nation’s fiscal health is one of this Congress’ top priorities,” he said at a hearing. “Part of this process includes trimming government spending and eliminating government waste.”