Late Breaking News
VBA Deputy Undersecretary for Field Operations Diana Rubens suggested the problem was not as bad as characterized by the VA IG. She said in written testimony that the VBA believes the overpayment projection given by the IG of $1.1 billion over the next five years is “significantly overstated.” Furthermore, she said the overall error rate of 15% in the IG’s report also was too high.
“Nevertheless, VBA agrees that significant overpayments were occurring as a result of not timely re-evaluating all cases with 100% temporary ratings,” she explained in written testimony.
Rubens insisted to the subcommittee that VA has made progress in addressing the overpayment problem. VBA identified and fixed a system software problem that had caused many future examination dates to drop out of the system, she explained.
She also said a January OIG audit of two regional offices, which showed that 50% of the temporary 100% disability evaluations were incorrect, was from data prior to the “final full system fix.”
Staff training to reduce the error rate also will continue, according to her testimony.
“We have done a tremendous amount of training and will continue to do that to ensure that the human element is also addressed,” she said.
Problems for Veterans
For a veteran, receiving an overpayment can be “more devastating than never having received the payment in the first place,” said Rick Weidman, Vietnam Veterans of America executive director for policy and government affairs.
“People don’t have the resources to pay it back in most cases. Because they got it and thought they must have deserved it and are entitled to it, therefore the money is gone,” he told lawmakers.
Rep. Dina Titus (D-NV) pointed out the problem was not only with overpayments. She said the VA IG found more than half of the 100% temporary disability evaluations done at the Reno VA Regional Office in her congressional district were incorrectly done and that some were underpayments.
“We certainly don’t want our veterans to be underpaid,” she said. “For example, we found one veteran with service-connected bone cancer and prostate cancer who was underpaid nearly $10,000 over a period of three years.”