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Congressman Ackerman Urges VA to Speed Up, Improve Claims

According to an article written by Congressman Ackerman, Ackerman and NYC/Long Island Colleagues Call on VA Secretary to Improve New York Regional Veterans Affairs Office. The Facility processes benefits claims for veterans throughout New York including New York City and Long Island U.S. Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-Queens/L.I.), joined by Members of the New York City-Long Island Congressional Delegation, today announced that they have urged the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to fix the shortcomings of the VA Regional Office of New York (New York VARO). In a letter to VA Secretary Eric Shinseki, Ackerman and the delegation requested a review of the resources and procedures presently in place at the facility and that a written plan be developed to address New York VARO’s need for improvement. The correspondence was sent in response to a July 28th report by the VA Office of Inspector General (OIG) that detailed numerous issues with the way the New York VARO handles benefit claims for veterans. According to the report, the New York VARO is averaging 257.1 days to complete compensation claims submitted by veterans, a staggering 82 days longer than the national target of 175 days. The report also revealed that only 75.1 percent of these claims are processed accurately, which is well below the 90 percent target set by the Veterans Benefits Administration. In addition, the review specifically cites the need for the New York VARO to improve the control and accuracy of processing disability claims including temporary 100 percent disability evaluations, Traumatic Brain Injury residual-disability claims, and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder claims. “With so many troops returning everyday from Afghanistan and Iraq, we are greatly concerned that the New York VARO may not be performing at the level our veteran constituents need,” the lawmakers wrote. “While the New York VARO Director concurred with the OIG’s findings, we would like to know how the VA and the VARO will correct the shortcomings as well as implement the recommendations in the OIG report.” The New York VARO, located in downtown Manhattan, is one of 57 regional VA offices across the country that provides benefits and services to veterans. The New York facility serves approximately 800,000 veterans throughout New York City, Long Island and New York State. “The unreasonable delays and processing errors at the New York VARO must end,” said Ackerman. “Our veterans must not continue to be subjected to these dreadful and frustrating practices. They deserve better.” The text of the letter is below. Click here for a hard copy of the correspondence which includes its signatories. ——————————————————– September 15, 2011 The Honorable Eric Shinseki Secretary Department of Veterans Affairs 810 Vermont Ave., NW Washington, D.C. 20420 Dear Secretary Shinseki: We write to express our deep concern about the findings of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Office of Inspector General (OIG) regarding its inspection of the VA Regional Office (VARO) of New York. According to the OIG’s July 28th,2011 report, the VARO is averaging 257.1 days to complete compensation claims, a considerable 82 days more than the national target of 175 days. The accuracy of the processing of these claims is also disappointing, at 75.1 percent, it is well below the 90 percent target set by the Veterans Benefits Administration. The OIG report also specifically cited the need for the New York VARO to improve the control and accuracy of processing temporary 100 percent disability evaluations, TBI residual-disability claims, and PTSD claims. With so many troops returning everyday from Afghanistan and Iraq, we are greatly concerned that the New York VARO may not be performing at the level our veteran constituents need. While the New York VARO Director concurred with the OIG’s findings, we would like to know how the VA and the VARO will correct the shortcomings as well as implement the recommendations in the OIG report. Therefore, we respectfully request that you review both the available resources and processes now in place at the New York VARO and develop a written plan to address NY VARO’s need for improvement. We thank you for your attention to this matter and look forward to your prompt reply. Sincerely,