Just when you think that there couldn’t possibly be another scandal in the VA; there’s another scandal in the VA. This time Stars and Stripes reports that a VA Inspector General’s audit found multiple serious issues at the VA Regional Office in Philadelphia.
According to the article on page 7 of the April 17 edition of Stars and Stripes, A Philadelphia VA office simultaneously underserved and overcompensated veterans, keeping them waiting for months to get answers to their benefits questions, paying out millions in duplicative benefits and housing some employees in a vermin-infested warehouse.
The VA Inspector General’s report has the ponderous title, Review of Alleged Data Manipulation and Mismanagement at the VA Regional Office Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
The report from the VA’s Inspector General concluded that the Philadelphia VA benefits center’s poor performance is impeding service to veterans, and it recommended 35 ways to improve service at the VA Regional Office in Philadelphia.
Back in May 2014, the VA Inspector General Hotline received several calls from VA staff in Philadelphia about mismanagement at the Philadelphia Regional Office (VARO).
In June 2014, VA Inspector General staff members, including benefits inspectors, auditors, criminal investigators, and administrative investigators, began a comprehensive review of the Philadelphia Regional Office.
The investigators conducted more than 100 interviews with the management and staff of the Philadelphia Regional Office and substantiated serious issues involving mismanagement and distrust of Regional Office management that is impeding the effectiveness of the Regional Office’s operations and services to veterans.
The VA’s Inspector General made 35 recommendations for improvement at the Philadelphia Regional Office including:
- mismanagement of VA resources resulting in compromised data integrity
- lack of financial stewardship
- lack of confidence in management’s ability to effectively manage workload
- mail management
- protecting documents containing veteran’s personal information
According to the report, “There is an immediate need to improve the operation and management of this VARO and take actions to ensure a more effective work environment.”
The inspectors determined that the management of the Philadelphia Regional Office was so ineffective that the Regional Office requires direct oversight by the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA), which is responsible for administering the VA’s programs that provide financial and other forms of assistance to Veterans, their dependents, and survivors.
The report states that, “It is imperative to ensure VBA leadership and the VARO Director implement plans to ensure the unprocessed workload we identified is processed and to provide appropriate oversight that is critical to minimizing the potential future financial risk of making inaccurate benefit payments. This includes maintaining oversight needed to ensure all future workload is processed timely and in ensuring the accurate and timely delivery of benefits and services.”
The Stars and Stripes article even included four photographs of the dingy conditions at the rundown warehouse where the VA employees had to work.
The VA’s Inspector General has earned the reputation of being an organization that sweeps problems under the rug, and protects VA employees no matter what. So the situation at the VA’s Philadelphia Regional Office must be really bad for the VA’s Inspector General to react the way it has in this case.
Then again, maybe the VA’s Inspector General finally did something because the complaints came from VA employees instead of coming from veterans. Complaints to the VA’s Inspector General from veterans usually fall on deaf ears.