Yesterday, U.S. Senator Tom Udall, a member of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Military Construction and Veterans Affairs, announced that he has called on the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to immediately address N.M. claims processing errors highlighted in a recent report by the Veterans Affairs Office of the Inspector General (VA OIG). Numerous problems were found at the Albuquerque VA Regional Office (VARO), including that the office incorrectly processed 40 percent of the disability claims reviewed, and incorrectly processed 10 of 28 traumatic brain injury claims.
The findings “represent a level of service well below the expectations of New Mexico veterans,” Udall wrote in a letter to VA Under Secretary for Health Robert Petzel.
Udall has repeatedly urged the VA to work quickly to reduce the backlog in disability claims by veterans. He met with Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki earlier this year to discuss the department’s plans to improve the processing of benefit claims nationwide. Incorrect processing, such as what the VA OIG found in the Albuquerque VARO, leads to an increase in appeals, which exacerbates the backlog.
“The claims processing crisis within the VA has been a great disservice to our veterans returning home after over a decade of war,” Udall wrote in his letter. “Reports such as this do not increase confidence that the VA is ready to turn a corner on the issue, but they are necessary to ensure that VARO and the VA can take the strides needed to provide our veterans with the services they have earned and that I – and all America – expect of the VA.”
The VA OIG’s report identified specific recommendations to fix the problems found in the Albuquerque VARO.
Udall called on the VA to immediately implement these recommendations and report back on the outcome. “I look forward to an update on the implementation of these recommendations and will continue to work with the VA to further the goal of reducing the claims backlog facing our veterans,” Udall wrote.
The full text of the letter is available below.