Roughly $110 million in payments to thousands of housebound veterans was withheld from them by the Department of Veterans Affairs, according to a new report from VA inspector general’s office.
The IG report found approximately 186,000 veterans as of March 2015 were designated as housebound because of illness or injury with errors in payments to about 33,400 of them. Others did receive payments, but they were delayed anywhere from five days to six years.
The report also found some veterans who were not designated as housebound received $44.3 million in money meant for housebound veterans.
“Staff did not accurately address housebound benefits,” the report concluded. “As a result, some veterans did not receive benefits to which they were entitled, while taxpayer funds were wasted paying other veterans who did not meet the eligibility criteria.”
The IG report blamed the errors on a faulty electronic system, poor training and management allowing VA staff to “arbitrarily decide these claims.”
This is not the first time that VA’s technology has been criticized. In its final report released in the summer, the Commission on Care – a board established to propose recommendations for VA reform – called the VA’s technology “antiquated” and “disjointed.” The commission called for a new system that would, in part, better allow the health care side of VA to communicate with staffers making benefits decisions.
In response to the IG report, the VA’s office of the undersecretary for benefits said it was working on technology changes. The office also said it would start an annual review of benefits going to housebound veterans. The first review is scheduled for October.
Meanwhile, Michael Missal, the VA’s new inspector general, told a House committee earlier this week that he’s working to expand inspections into the VA’s benefits programs. The committee met about another IG report that found veterans in prison had received $104 million in overpayments between 2008 and 2015.
The IG now has three teams dedicated to reviewing the Veterans Benefits Administration, Missal told the committee.
In this latest report, the IG cited one example of a veteran who had one illness or injury rated as 100 percent disabling, plus other disabilities. As of February 2015, the veteran was being underpaid by about $350 per month. During nine years, the VA had not paid $36,100 to the veteran. The error was fixed in October 2015.
In another case, a veteran who was temporarily housebound continued receiving extra payments even after he had recovered. He had been overpaid approximately $154,000 during four and a half years, the report stated. The VA corrected the payments in May.
Besides updating some of its technology and starting an annual review of housebound benefits, the VA said it would require more training. The changes will be put into effect in the remainder of 2016, according to the VA’s response.
A new bill would give troops with infertility related to their military service greater access to advanced reproductive treatments, including up to three completed cycles of in vitro fertilization, or IVF, and cryopreservation of eggs and sperm for those heading to a combat zone.
U.S. Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Joseph L. Osterman, the commanding general of I Marine Expeditionary Force, speaks to Marines with the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) during a visit aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Boxer (LHD 4). Marines and Sailors with the 11th MEU are conducting routine operations as part of the Boxer Amphibious Ready Group in the eastern Pacific Ocean. (U.S. Marine Corps Photo by Lance Cpl. Dalton S. Swanbeck)
The Marine Corps' top general on the west coast is readying his Marines for the next big war against a near peer competitor, and one of his main concerns is figuring out how to alter the mindset of troops that have been fighting insurgencies since 9/11.
"If anything my problem is getting people out of the mindset of [counterterrorism] and making sure they're thinking about near peer adversaries in their training programs," Lt. Gen. Joseph Osterman, commanding general of I Marine Expeditionary Force at Camp Pendleton, California, told Task & Purpose in an interview on Friday.
A Ruger AR-15 semi-automatic rifle, center, the same model, though in gray rather than black, used by the shooter in a Texas church massacre two days earlier, sits on display with other rifles on a wall in a gun shop Tuesday, Nov. 7, 2017, in Lynnwood, Wash. (Associated Press/Elaine Thompson)
A new bill introduced in the Missouri House of Representatives would require a significant number of state residents own "at least one" AR-15 semi-automatic rifle with the help of a hefty tax break — except it won't ever get off the ground.
The casket carrying the remains of Scott Wirtz, a civilian employee of the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency killed along with three members of the U.S. military during a recent attack in Syria, sits in a military vehicle during a dignified transfer ceremony as they are returned to the United States at Dover Air Force Base, in Dover, Delaware, U.S., January 19, 2019. (Reuters/Kevin Lamarque)
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S.-backed forces have captured ISIS fighters tied to a January suicide bombing in Syria that killed four Americans, U.S. officials say, generating concrete leads for Washington about the deadliest attack to date there against U.S. personnel.