Jefcoat Letter

Published 12:00 am Friday, December 19, 2008

To the editor:

There is a story concerning the Veteran’s Administration that folks are not seeing on newscasts — the problem of shredding veterans’ claim documents and date-changing of claims in order to make the VA claims process seem to be improving. There are over 800,000 claims in line to be processed now, and each one affects a real person’s life.

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“Recent revelations that workers in 41 of 57 VA Regional Benefits Offices improperly set aside hundreds of claims records for shredding came as no surprise to veterans. The VA, critics say, has long operated in a veritable culture of lost paper and was losing records many years before this latest scandal. Lost paperwork sometimes leads to delayed, denied or abandoned claims for medical or financial assistance,” according to a story published Nov. 30 in the St. Petersburg Times. http://www.tampabay.com/news/military/veterans/article920468.ece

“A summary of an investigation by the VA obtained by Newsday showed that of 20 claims examined by VA investigators at the New York office during a July visit, 16 had been marked with apparently phony dates to suggest their processing had begun within the required seven days of their arrival,” according to Newsday.com. “A wider audit in August showed that 56.4 percent of claims carried incorrect intake dates, according to the summary, which was dated Nov. 10. According to the summary, several employees told VA investigators that their supervisor had instructed them to enter incorrect dates, and that the practice was widely known.” http://sturly.com/www.veteransclaims.com.

More on this “Scandal” can be found here: http://www.vawatchdog.org/VAshredderscandal.htm

Until the Veteran’s Administration is made to FULLY understand that each claim involves the life and livelihood of a REAL person who served in the most honorable position of protecting America’s freedoms, changes will not be made. Another area of concern is that widows of war veterans have been wrongfully denied up to millions of dollars in government benefits over the past 12 years due to computer glitches that often resulted in money being seized from the elderly survivors’ bank accounts.

Congress passed a law in 1996 giving veterans’ spouses the right to keep their partners’ final month of benefits. It instructed the VA to make changes as needed to comply with the law, which took effect for spouses of veterans who died after Dec. 31, 1996.

But the VA never updated its automated computer systems, which send out checks and notification letters. As a result, widows were either denied the final month of payment or asked to send the checks back.

The Senate Veterans Affairs Committee estimates that 50,000 widows each year since 1996 could be affected, based on VA numbers indicating more than 100,000 veterans die each year. To expedite matters, the VA said widows who believe they were wrongfully denied payments can call its help line at 1-800-827-1000.

For additional information, read the Chicago Tribune’s story at the following link: http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/politics/sns-ap-vets-widow-benefits,0,3774005.story

My hope is that changes will be coming under the new VA Secretary.

/s/Bobby Jefcoat, Batesville

(Editor’s note: Bobby Jefcoat is a veteran of the Vietnam War and a volunteer advocate for all veterans. Contact him at bobbyjefcoat@cableone.net.