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5 ways the VA is addressing manipulation of benefits data

A new Department of Veterans Affairs scandal emerged this week as VA employees and an independent investigator said the agency made old benefits claims appear new by altering their dates.

VA officials have said that the problem resulted from “confusion and misapplication” of a 2014 leadership memo that authorized processors to mark once-overlooked claims with the dates they were found instead of the dates they were submitted.

At a hearing Monday, VA Undersecretary for Benefits Allison Hickey described that recently suspended memo as a “pro-veteran position,” explaining that it allowed processors to approve old claims without sending applicants back to their doctors for reexamination.

Allison Hickey, undersecretary for benefits at the Department of Veterans Affairs. (Cliff Owen/Associated Press)

Hickey also outlined steps that the VA is taking to ensure the integrity of its claims data in the future, and the agency summarized those measures in an announcement Wednesday. Below is a list of the planned actions:

  • Acting Secretary of Veterans Affairs Sloan Gibson has ordered that a team of experts should determine possible scenarios in which employees might find ways “around the system” and decide if further controls are needed.
  • Hickey directed the Veterans Benefits Administration to apply for ISO 9001 certification — a global benchmark for quality management — to provide external validation and quality assurance of the agency’s data.
  • Gibson promised to hold accountable any employees who are found to have worked around standard claims processes.
  • The VA has pledged to immediately notify its independent inspector general when it discovers practices that stray from standard claims processes.
  • The VA continues to provide performance data on benefits through its weekly Monday Morning Workload Reports.
Josh Hicks covers Maryland politics and government. He previously anchored the Post’s Federal Eye blog, focusing on federal accountability and workforce issues.

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