‘FLEXIBLE’ 

 

2/94th Battalion Update part of Number 20

 

All Veterans past, present, and future - Attention! - "ready up"

 drop your drawers and bend over - your government reward is coming!!!!!!


 

From Mr.  Steve Robinson

WWW.NGWRC.ORG (National Gulf War Resources Center)

 

I attended a meeting at the Department of Veterans Affairs yesterday where the VA released an IG Report entitled:

 

"Executive Summary and Management Comments of State Variances in VA Disability Compensation Payments"

Report# 05-00765-137

www.va.gov/oig/52/reports/2005/vaoig-05-00765-137.pdf


The report was commissioned after a Chicago Sun-Times article presented the fiscal year (FY) 2003 ranking of average annual disability compensation payments by state, Illinois ranked 50th.

http://www.lincolncourier.com/news/05/01/22/c.asp 

 

Well here is the report and here's what it means to veterans.

 

The VA places the blame for these variances squarely on the veteran with only minimal discussion about VA doctors not doing proper medical exams or unified claims rating processes across the Nation.

 

Furthermore the VA believes veterans are filing fraudulent claims and those claims are being approved by dumb VA raters.

 

Because of this belief the VA intends to review all 100% PTSD claims granted from 1999-2005.  If you had a claim granted during this period you better get out your DD-214 and start calling your buddies for evidence of your combat exposure.

 


 

 

Ever notice that nothing is ever the VA's fault? 

 

The most inefficient (on purpose by "government mandate") and corrupt federal agency ever created; and it can do no wrong.  Filing fraudulent claims???? CHRIST you cannot even get a legitimate claim through. 

 

Much less the ones they are covering up that have resulted in the lack of medical notification to our nation's doctors which is responsible for the dying of more men and women Veterans that were killed in Korea, Vietnam, and the Gulf War combined; including 10 times more disabled.  With this very federal agency being in the lead of this government medical information void created on purpose.

 

I, for one, was surprised that the last two Veterans' Affairs Secretaries were not name in the SHAD lawsuit for covering up that information since their head of VA environmental hazards section was named as defendant.  If they can name Robert McNamara they certainly can name the VA heads.

 

Additionally the VA through the pressure of the House Veterans Affairs Committee wants to start giving lump sum payments to veterans with 20% or less disability.

 

This lump sum, I had already told you was coming.  I do not care if they offer it as an option; but to mandate it is not right; nor should it be legal!

 

I can see this now even as an option with the VA.  You want cash now or do you want to wait while we stall your claim for the next 10 years.  Your choice!  That one is so obvious it is not even funny.

 

Of course our government nor the VA cares about what is constitutional or not constitutional when it comes to Veterans.

 

I would suggest that you find out if your congressman is on this House Committee on Veterans Affairs.  Find out what he or she is doing, where they stand on the issues, and vote appropriately in 2006.  Maybe even campaign for the challenger if there is one.

 

This OIG report will be sent to the Disability Benefits Commission and is fraught with horrible language and in some cases , great speculation without looking at the real problem.

 

I believe that the VA shouldn't pay one dime to any vet who lies about his or her injury and the VA should prosecute to the full extent of the law anyone who submits a fraudulent claim but that's not the real problem.  The real problem is VA doctors in some areas are worse in medical write up than those in other areas of the country and VA raters have no uniformed standards or refuse to apply the standard that currently exist.

 

If the VA wants to solve this problem then they should look at their systems for medical screening.  They should demand VA Docs receive regular training in the unique exposures of war.  Doctors should not be allowed the option of reading , studying and complying with the VHI Series for veterans exposure.  It should be mandatory and there should be regular testing and retraining.  The VA should also use modern technology for screening of PTSD.  The NIH uses a tool that cannot be gamed by the patient and tracks the patient over time for signs of improvement.

 

The raters must have clear guidelines and they must regularly be spot-checked for compliance.

 

With the war in Iraq potentially producing up to 30% claims of PTSD this report seems to be setting those soldiers up for a difficult if not impossible task to prove any and all claims.

 

This will save a lot of money for the federal government if the House Veterans Affairs Committee, the VA and the Disability Commission succeed.

 

Stop blaming the veteran and saving money on our backs.

 

AMEN BROTHER!

 

Steve Robinson

WWW.NGWRC.ORG

 


 

Page iii

 

Comparing the high cluster average of $11,073 to the national average of $8,378 shows a variance of $2,695. The low cluster average is $1,251 below the national average. Preliminarily, this suggests that the high cluster may be more problematic than the lower ranked states.

Demographic and Benefit Rating Factors.

 

The following demographic and benefit rating factors help explain the variances in state average annual disability compensation payments. Demographic factors are variables that VA has virtually no control over. Our review shows that many of these variables have a correlation to the ranking of compensation payments by state. These factors support the presumption that some part of the variance is predictable and valid.

 

• Power of Attorney Representation. Data indicates that veterans whose claims are represented by veterans service organizations receive, on average, $6,225 more per year than those without representation. There is also a correlation between state ranking of compensation payments and the percentage of representation in that state. For example, the high cluster of states shows an average representation of 69.5 percent, while the low cluster averages 54.7 percent representation.

 

• Enlisted versus Officer. On a national level, data indicates that enlisted veterans average $1,775 more per year than veterans who served as officers. There is also a correlation between the state ranking and the percentage of enlisted personnel. For example, the high cluster shows an average of 63.4 percent enlisted personnel receiving compensation benefits compared to the low cluster, which shows 44.4 percent enlisted personnel receiving benefits.

 

• Military Retirees versus Non-Military Retirees. Data indicates that military retirees receive $1,438 more per year than non-military retired claimants. Our analysis shows that states with a higher percentage of retired military veterans are ranked higher in terms of average annual disability compensation payments. For example, the high cluster averages 27.6 percent retired military veterans receiving compensation benefits compared to the low cluster, which averages 16.6 percent military retirees.

 

High Cluster

Low Cluster

New Mexico

$12,004

Indiana

$7,287

Maine

11,626

Michigan

7,241

Arkansas

10,968

Connecticut

7,204

West Virginia

10,866

Ohio

7,039

Oklahoma

10,697

New Jersey

7,028

Oregon

10,277

Illinois

6,961

Average

$11,073

Average

$7,127

 

Percentage of 10 Percent Versus 100 Percent Ratings by State. Our analysis shows that states vary in terms of the percentages of 10 percent versus 100 percent ratings and that there is a correlation to the variance. For example, the high cluster averages fewer 10 percent ratings and more 100 percent than the low cluster. The high cluster averages 23.5 percent for veterans with 10 percent ratings and 11.6 percent for veterans with 100 percent ratings. The low cluster averages 35.7 percent for veterans with 10 percent ratings and 7.1 percent for veterans with 100 percent ratings.

 

• Lump-Sum Payments. In 1997, as part of an overall strategy to improve claims processing timeliness, we suggested that VBA could offer lump-sum payments to veterans to reduce the number of reopened claims. Taking into consideration that 30.6 percent of all claims are rated 10 percent, combined with results from our survey where rating specialists expressed concern with insufficient staff to adequately process claims, consideration should be given to offering lump-sum payments to veterans as settlement of all future compensation cases. Lump-sum payments for all veterans with disabilities rated 20 percent or less would result in reducing 46.9 percent, or 1.17 million active claims. It would also result in reducing recurring compensation payments of $1.96 billion a year and would free up staff to improve the quality and timeliness of future workload. Acceptance of a lump-sum payment would not change a veteran’s eligibility for VA health care.

 

Again, I for one do not agree with this tact.  Make the VA accountable for stalling and the government stop mandating and using this agency as a yearly budget control tool.

 

In the last update we calculated at 500,000 claims and the present number of VA employees in the claims section it was about 39 claims per person.  Even if you double that to 78 claims per person it is ridiculous that no more gets done.  In no case that I found did I find more than 3% of the claims approved in any year.  Any one wonder why???????

 

In this so called Veterans Court, 13 Veterans have prevailed in the Veterans Court out of 14,000 cases.

Check out Vets for Justice at http://www.vetsforjustice.com/

 

This whole thing is a government con game from the mistakes made by an arrogant government in our toxic chemicals and the screw-ups in the Gulf War.  To admit these mistakes would take trillions of dollars to fix and compensate.  Instead they cover it up.

 

I think most Veterans understand mistakes but at least give the Veterans the decency to know what they are facing and let their doctors know what they are facing medically rather than just say nothing and cover it up.  Compensations are one thing but to let a generation or two of Veterans die with no warning is something different.

 

As I have told you I would like nothing better to get the data from the Korean Study as to which Veteran had what, just by number or some designator.  Then build a data base with some real practicing doctor specialists and try and see what the heck is going on.  All I have found so far is discrete medical issues with nothing tying them all together.  Convenient for the government but not so for the Veteran and his doctors.

 


 

Survey of Raters:

 

We issued a questionnaire to 1,992 rating specialists and DROs to gain their perspective on training and on the issues that affect the rating of disability claims; 1,349 (67.7 percent) responded. Results included:


 

VA Office of Inspector General viii Review of State Variances in VA Disability Compensation Payments:

 

All very nice excuses but does not cut it.  Not after how long have they been doing this; and they are now going to blame the processes that they developed!!!!!!!  No Sir does not work.  Not after I heard the Secretary testify before the Senate VAC and give his lame ass excuses.  And of course they, the Senate VAC play the game and do not challenge him on anything!

 


 

Disability Examinations:

 

Our review determined there was no apparent difference in the quality of medical examination reports completed by VA and QTC Medical Group, Inc. (QTC) physicians. However, raters surveyed believe many VA and QTC examinations are incomplete. Thirty-two percent of the survey respondents estimated that 20 percent or more of the medical examinations should have been returned because they were not sufficient for rating purposes. Only 7 percent of the survey respondents estimated that more than 20 percent of the medical examinations were actually returned to the examiners because they were insufficient for rating. Very few raters interviewed have seen or were familiar with the reports generated through use of the medical examination report templates being developed by the VA Compensation and Pension Examination Program.

 

Again Horse Hockey!  If you compare what the SS does and then compare what the VA does the big difference is "conflict of interest."

 

The SS has about 12 different medical areas that you can claim for medical disability all spelled out, qualifying data for each area, tests that qualify, and how they should be run, including quality assurance provisions, etc.  Normally it will be only one area but can be two of course. 

 

Your doctor or doctors sends in the paper work on the diagnosis, prognosis, etc.  In my case my doctor had told me to file in late 2001 which I did not file until 2004 thinking the VA would compensate me for service in the military; and of course thinking I was going to get better. 

 

Once that is done it goes before a review board of doctors, which are totally unbiased.  In the case of my area they use interns from Emory.  These become doctor's questions not some Social Security worker who may get gold stars or promotions for denials.  In my case I was able to get mine done in nine months.  But then I had data the normal Veteran would not have access to and submitted these to the doctors in review showing that Vietnam Veterans are no longer the standard genotype meeting some 100 year old definition of a defined medical disorder.

 

Granted the VA is looking for partial disabilities as well as 100%.  However, the same thing is true of partial disabilities.  These also are nothing more than a matrix or at least they should be no different than the standard workman's comp matrix that is used by the entire nation.  Not subject to interpretation except by the doctors involved.  And certainly not the agency you are seeking damages from. 

 

The loss of the use of a hand or leg should be a doctors decision, not some VA Philadelphia lawyer and the two additional government gauntlets added to control spending; the BVA and this so called court the government has set up for only veterans.  This is not a Veteran's benefit.

 

Now of course the VA has to ascertain that this was service connected and that should be their only job.  Of course automatic associated disorders, as previously discussed, should meet little resistance and time delay which does not seemed to be the case.

 

But then if you were the lead government agency in denying any damages or associations for over 24 years one must consider these actions when comparing the actions of what is going on at present including the present government bias of politics and money.

 


 

PTSD Case Reviews.

 

We reviewed 2,100 compensation cases at 7 VAROs and found VBA procedures were not always followed, and that VAROs approached stressor verification requirements differently from state to state. In 527 (25 percent) of the 2,100 cases reviewed, we found inconsistencies in the methods raters used to develop and verify veteran-reported evidence about the claimed service-related stressor event before granting compensation benefits. The error rate ranged from a low of 11 percent in Oregon to a high of 40.7 percent in Maine. The error rate for Illinois was 21.7 percent. To demonstrate the potential consequence of not obtaining or developing adequate evidence to support a PTSD claim, the 25 percent error rate equates to questionable compensation payments totaling $860.2 million in FY 2004. Over the lifetimes of these veterans, the questionable payments would be an estimated $19.8 billion.

Our review at three VAROs revealed that the STAR program was ineffective in detecting the evidence development weaknesses identified in our review of PTSD cases. We determined that veterans sought less treatment for PTSD when their ratings were increased to 100 percent. Of 92 PTSD cases reviewed, we found that 39 percent had a decline in mental health visits after achieving 100 percent status. The average decline in visits was 82 percent, with some veterans receiving no mental health treatment at all.

VA Office of Inspector General ix Review of State Variances in VA Disability Compensation Payments

 

Part of the problem is that the compensation program has a built-in disincentive to get well when veterans are reapplying to get their disability ratings increased.

 

Again Horse Hockey!

 

This assuming that the PTSD is PTSD and not neuropsychological disorders caused by toxic chemical medical issues; brain tumors and lesions, endocrine disturbances, hormone and enzyme changes.

 

In 1990 the Ranch Handers, noncombatants that were primarily skin exposed, reported experienced statistically significant excess in - psychological disorders of depression, somatization, and severity of psychological distress.  Antisocial and paranoid scores were significantly higher along with psychotic delusion. 

 

How many doctors could actually tell the difference in what the government is calling PTSD and toxic chemical induced neuropsychological disorders?  Which even DOW chemical said in 1965 can be a result of TCDD exposures.

 

You do not get better from these medical issues maybe even creating bipolar mental issues. 

 

Be honest.  How many doctors are aware of these toxic chemical findings?

 

Harvard medical, in a blind study, found the same thing.

 

A study found the same thing in six third world countries were this toxic chemical was used, no combat.  Yet, the findings were the same including complete personality changes as well as an increase in suicides.

 

The VA found itself in their own study:

 

1990 - The VA study of Army Chemical Corps personnel found "mental disorders," nervous system disease; as well as the "excess deaths" from Hodgkin's disease, leukemia, and "brain cancer." (36)

 

· The "brain may be particularly vulnerable" to accumulating dioxin into its fat content.  Nervous system tissue itself, with its high lipid content, can also act as a repository for dioxin. 
 

What is even more amazing is the study put out by the VA on VA letter head stating the following:

 

Investigators confirmed that being wounded in Vietnam and having a combat job in Vietnam were risk factors for PTSD. Data analysis also revealed that those who had "noncombat jobs" but were wounded had the "highest risk of PTSD."

 

Prepared by the Environmental Agents Service (131)
C2 VA Central Office, Washington, DC 20420 Aug. 2002

 

Makes no sense to me but I am sure there is some logical government rationale somewhere.

 


 

Legislated Pay Increases

 

The disproportionate pay increases by Congress for higher rating levels impact the variance of compensation payments by state. An increase in the number of IU and 100 percent scheduler ratings combined with disproportionate pay increases by Congress for higher rating levels has resulted in IU ratings and 100 percent scheduler ratings comprising 16.3 percent of all ratings, which make up 57.4 percent of all disability compensation payments ($12 billion out of $20.9 billion). This is a primary reason why states with higher percentages of IU and 100 percent ratings have higher average annual compensation payments. For example, data shows that the high cluster averaged 25.9 percent IU and scheduler 100 percent ratings compared to 12.5 percent for the low cluster.

 


Benefits Fraud:

Fraudulent and improper claims are additional factors that will unnecessarily increase the amount of disability compensation payments if left unchecked. In addition to several major individual domestic fraud cases investigated over the years, such as the $11.2 million compensation fraud case in Atlanta, recent international benefits reviews by the OIG in the Philippines and Puerto Rico saved $66 million in fraudulent and improper payments over a 5-year period. It should be noted that international benefits were not included in our variance analysis. VBA’s FY 2004 income verification match with data from the Internal Revenue Service identified 8,486 veterans rated IU who reported earned income. If all 8,486 matches were fraudulent and invalid IU cases, the estimated cost savings for the next 5 years is over $600 million.

Also a joke:  Yes if a Veteran is doing this he or she should be punished but lets look at what is going on in the country for the last 50 years in fraudulent welfare claims and no one in government seems to be concerned about that.

 

Again I cite two news items I personally watched on the news and were pulled as soon as they were aired.

 

1.  A report came out that in DC alone that over 26 million dollars in food stamps were given to deceased Americans in one year alone. Times how many years; times how many other large cities the same thing is going on; times how many decades.

 

2. Jeanne Mose aired a story where they found one women in NY that had over 70 social security account numbers.  She had to hire a part time secretary to keep help her keep track of them all.  She got caught because she was greedy and was going after even more numbers.  This reporter then went to the streets and within about four hours she also had purchased two additional social security numbers.  Boy was that pulled in heart beat.  Yes this was before 911 while our congress stands around like deer in the headlights; gee how did those terrorists get all these fake ID's.

 

How many families only draw on five or six different numbers.  I do not think this nation has a clue!

 

Fraudulent claims?  The government and this federal agency lead the entire world in mass fraud not only in our issues but the Gulf War deaths and disablement that they insisted was all caused by stress.

 

…the House Government Operations Committee approved a report "The Agent Orange Cover-up: A case of flawed science and political manipulation", HR-101-672, that stated that:  

 

"The White House compromised the independence of the CDC [Centers for Disease Control] and undermined the [Agent Orange] study [of Vietnam Veterans] by controlling crucial decisions and guiding the course of research at the same time it had secretly taken a legal position to resist demands to compensate victims of Agent Orange exposure and industrial accidents."

On page 27, of this Congressional report (101-672), we see that "top administration officials such as Attorney General Edwin Meese and White House Chief of Staff James Baker had ultimate decision making authority for approving and eventually canceling the [Agent Orange] exposure study.”  (1)

 

You want to talk Fraud and criminal activity.  Jesus!

Conclusion:

Variances in average annual disability compensation payments by state have existed for decades. The factors that influence these payments are complex and intertwined. As outlined in this report, compensation payments by state are affected by legislated pay increases, an antiquated rating schedule, veteran demographics, and inconsistent rating decisions. Payments may be affected by claims processing practices, disability examinations, timeliness pressures, staffing levels, rater experience and training, and fraud. We concluded that some disabilities are inherently prone to subjective rating decisions, especially for conditions such as PTSD where much of the information needed to make a rating decision is not physically apparent and is more susceptible to interpretation and judgment. This subjectivity leads to inconsistency in rating decisions.

 

VA Office of Inspector General x Review of State Variances in VA Disability Compensation Payments

 

VBA acknowledges and is concerned that there are variances in claims decisions across the system. In fact, the October 2001 VA Claims Processing Task Force Report noted that the need for greater accountability and consistency in benefits delivery operations was the most significant issue facing VBA at the time. Since then, VBA has implemented several initiatives to improve consistency of decision making. While much has been accomplished, more needs to done. The following recommendations are intended to assist VBA in their efforts to further improve consistency in rating decisions.

Recommendations

 


 

To address issues pertaining to compensation payment variances, we recommend that the Under Secretary for Benefits take the following improvement actions:

 

1.    Conduct a scientifically sound study using statistical models, such as a multi-variant regression analysis, of the major influences on compensation payments to develop baseline data and metrics for monitoring and managing variances, and use this information to develop and implement procedures for detecting, correcting, and preventing unacceptable payment patterns.

 

2.    Coordinate with the Veterans’ Disability Benefits Commission to ensure all potential issues concerning the need to clarify and revise the Schedule for Rating Disabilities are reviewed, analyzed, and addressed.

 

3.   Conduct reviews of rating practices for certain disabilities, such as PTSD, IU, and other 100 percent ratings, to ensure consistency and accuracy nationwide. At a minimum, these reviews should consist of data analysis, claims file reviews, and onsite evaluation of rating and management practices.

 

4.    Expand the national quality assurance program by including evaluations of PTSD rating decisions for consistency by regional office, and to ensure sufficient evidence to support the rating is fully developed and documented, such as verifying the stressor event.

 

5.    Coordinate with the Veterans Health Administration to improve the quality of medical examinations provided by VA and contract clinicians, and to ensure medical and rating staff are familiar with approved medical examination report templates and that the templates are consistently used.

 

6.    In view of growing demand, the need for quality and timely claims decisions, and the ongoing training requirements, reevaluate human resources and ensure the VBA field organization is adequately staffed and equipped to meet mission requirements.

 


 

VA Office of Inspector General xi Review of State Variances in VA Disability Compensation Payments:

 

7.    Consider establishing a lump-sum payment option in lieu of recurring monthly payments for veterans with disability ratings of 20 percent or less.

 

8.    Undertake a more detailed analysis to identity differences in claims submission patterns to determine if certain veteran sub-populations, such as World War II, Korean Conflict, or veterans living in specific locales, have been underserved, and perform outreach based on the results of the analysis to ensure all veterans have equal access to VA benefits.

 

Comments

 

The Under Secretary for Benefits agreed with the review findings and recommendations and provided acceptable improvement plans. (See Appendix I for the full text of the Under Secretary for Benefits’ comments.) We will follow up on the implementation of recommended improvement actions until they are completed.

 

 

5-19: VA IG Report: Review of State Variances in VA Disability Compensation Payments

http://www.va.gov/oig/52/reports/2005/VAOIG-05-00765-137.pdf

 

5-20: Washington Post: VA Faults Staff for Disparity in Payments

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/05/20/AR2005052000098.html

 

5-20: Chicago Sun-Times: Illinois veterans at 'rock bottom'

http://www.suntimes.com/output/news/cst-nws-wvets20.html

 

5-20: Knight Ridder: VA to address inconsistencies in handling disability claims

http://www.kansascity.com/mld/kansascity/news/politics/11689469.htm

 

5-19: Chicago Sun-Times: Other states overpay vets: report

http://www.suntimes.com/output/news/wvets19.html

 

 

Kelley 

 

SP5Kelley2nd94th@aol.com