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Va Claims

In: Social Issues

Submitted By Lewissd
Words 1840
Pages 8
Veteran Health Administration Disability Claims

Introduction

The United States Armed Forces serve the nation selflessly; therefore, they deserve the compensation guaranteed to them by the federal government, especially after engagement in combat. American troops are will begin departing from Afghanistan this year after 11 years at war; however, it seems that the government is not committed in compensating former armed service personnel. This is due to the increasing number of veterans’ claims accumulating in the Veterans Affairs offices. Combat has severe impact on veterans and this impact may not only be physical, but mental as well. Many veterans suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder after witnessing the events of war. As a result, many cannot hold jobs to their families. Regardless of their service, there are more than 400,000 veterans who have not yet received resolution of their disability claims. A claim is considered a backlog case if it takes more than 125 days to be processed. Some veterans have been forced to wait over two years and hence suffered severe financial strains.

Problem Statement

Due to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, a vast number of disabled veterans have flooded the Veterans Health Administration system. Although it is the largest health care system in America, it has failed to effectively care for its veterans. There are currently over 400,000 unprocessed medical claims and approximately 265,000 appeals stemming from significant or permanent disabilities sustained due to military service (Dreyfus, 2014). Moreover, from 2008 to 2009 alone, the number of claims grew by 48 percent and the number swelled by an additional 67 percent from 2009 to 2012 (Mukherjee, 2013). Although the Veterans Health Administration has cut the number of claims by approximately 497,000 over the last two years, a 15 percent increase is expected by 2015 (Mukherjee, 2013). Further compounding the problem of the veteran claims backlog is the Department of Defenses projected budget reduction of $75 billion dollars (Dreyfus, 2014). Although the Veteran’s Health Administration has been exempted from budget cuts, TRICARE is not. TRICARE is the health insurance plan for approximately 5 million military retirees who prefer more options for primary care providers; however proposed rate increases may force many of these retirees to opt for care within the Veterans Health Administration system. The annual rate for TRICARE is expected to rise from $680 (2014), to $760 in 2015, to $850 in 2016, then $893 by 2017 (TRICARE, 2014). Due to the country’s financial woes and the fact that the United States government funds the Veterans Health Administration, the claims backlog issue may be viewed in an economic context. Current funding for fiscal year 2014 is set at $153.8 billion dollars, an $80.7 billion dollar increase since fiscal year 2016 (see appendix 1 for a complete financial historical perspective). The vast amounts of money required in funding veterans health has a major impact on the United States economy and may result in policies that cut money from other government programs. The governing context is also an environment in which the problem of veterans claims backlog exists, as the House Committee on Veterans Affairs has the responsibility of administering and reviewing veterans' programs, recommending new bills and examining current laws and amendments (House, 2014). Senator Martin Heinrich is currently leading a working group which hopes to enact the 21st Century Veterans Benefits Reform Act, which aims to strengthen congressional support for veteran affairs and eliminate past problems (Heinrich, 2014). The political context also relates to the veterans claims backlog. The House Committee on Veterans Affairs is a 25-member bi-partisan commission that works with several interest groups such as the Concerned Veterans for America, Air Force Sergeants Association and Disabled Americans Veterans to ensure the protection of veteran rights. Instrument of Public Policy
Regulation
As a sub-department of the United States Department of Veterans Affairs, the federal government is directly responsible for the operation and management of the Veterans Health Administration. Unfortunately, the current system of management has been ineffective and calls for strict regulation. Regulation is one of the best-known policy instruments and may be applied to ensure compliance by units of government (Kraft & Furlong, 2013). Additionally, this policy implementation instrument the can enforce accountability by those responsible for failing to comply with established directives. According to the Administration Conference of the United States, an agency dedicated to improving operational and administrative practices across the government, the Department of Veteran Affairs established an operational management review process in 2009. The onus of this process is to monitor aspects of planning, cost control, scheduling, performance targets and resource management, along with 11 other major initiatives (ACUS, 2013). The overall objective of the operational management review process is to implement practices, which support continuous improvement and sustain efficiency. The backlog of veteran claims demonstrates that the process has failed to yield the desired results; therefore, there is an obvious need for external government intervention. Another example of the need for regulation is that in 2008, the Government Accountability Office estimated that the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs squandered more than $4 million dollars in cost towards health care program databases that have never been functional (GAO, 2009). If regulation were applied as an instrument of public policy, this problem may have been avoided.

Solutions to the Claims Backlog

One alternative to eliminating the backlog of veteran claims is to completely overhaul the Department of Veteran Affairs and the Veteran Health Administration’s leadership. Currently, Eric Shinseki is the Secretary of Veterans Affairs and he has not been held accountable for his department’s problems. The President of the United States, who has the authority to remove Shinseki from his position must demand change in the current situation or ensure accountability by firing him. The CVA has received support from the Senate as 67 Senators signed a letter urging the President to seek a solution. This follows a similar letter signed by 26 members of the House of Representatives (Hegseth, 2013). Hegseth (2013) argues that all military veterans are also calling for changes hence it may be difficult for Obama’s administration to ignore these calls. The CVA is also conducting campaigns aimed at educating the public on the VA’s poor performance so as to gain more support from members of the public. Hegseth (2013) argues that it seems the VA has received the message from the public of its disastrous performance and calls for changes. As a result, it has taken measures intended at reducing the backlog of veterans’ claims. For example, performance bonuses for the executives responsible for the delays have been withheld (Hegseth, 2013). Investing in employees by allowing for overtime and introducing advanced training programs is another alternative to resolving the issue of veteran claims backlog. The additional time will allow employees to process more claims and performance can be improved through training of enhanced techniques or knowledge that improves their efficiency. Additionally, the department should offer productivity incentives to encourage the employees to want to work more hours. The employees’ performance can also be improved by making them begin processing the oldest cases first. Processing the old cases first will enable veterans that returned home earlier to receive their compensation first. It will also reduce the cases of backlog since the remaining cases will not have exceeded the 125 days period.

Conclusion

In conclusion, the Department of Veteran Affairs has failed in taking care of the former service men and women., evidenced by the fact that over 400,000 disability claims have not yet been processed. As a result, many veterans and their beneficiaries have been unable to receive compensation for their service to the nation. A disability claim is considered a backlog in the event that it takes over 125 days to be processed (Rieckhoff, 2014). However, there are those veterans that have waited up to about two years for their claims to be processed. In the period that the veterans are waiting, they are normally faced with serious financial strains (Rieckhoff, 2014). These individuals have suffered physically and mentally in the wars. Therefore, they are not able to hold jobs and cater for their families. It is not fair for the veterans to wait for long period to receive their benefits after their service (Rieckhoff, 2014). The government should therefore keep its word and provide the benefits so that the veterans and their families can live a better life after the wars. There are various reasons why there is an accumulation of veterans’ disability claims but the primary reason is the policy formulation process in America (Rieckhoff, 2014). There are numerous interest groups in America representing different issues. For the government to make a decision on an issue, the interest groups have to attract the government’s attention. However, the competition among the interest groups is very stiff (Rieckhoff, 2014). As compared to some of the interest groups, Concerned Veterans of America is not well organized and also does not have vast resources. As a result, it does not have enough bargaining power to attract the attention of the government to act on the issue of claims backlog. The government does not also depend on solving claims backlog so as to build the economy (Rieckhoff, 2014). As a result, it does not favor this issue as compared to other issues such as public health and national expenditure. The most suitable alternatives that the Concerned Veterans of America can use to attract the attention of the government is proposing the use of an automated processing system and boosting the performance of the department’s employees. These alternatives are effective, efficient and also technical feasible. They will facilitate the reduction of the disability claims, will not consume a lot of effort and resources plus they are also practical. As a result, the government will be inclined to implement changes at the Veteran Affairs department so as to reduce the backlog of disability claims. References

Attig, C. (2014). 5 Reasons the VA Keeps Screwing up Your VA Claim.: And How You Have the Power to Fix It! New Jersey: Satisfied Mind, LLC. Hegseth, P. (2013). Picking Up the Steam: Growing Push for VA Accountability on Claims Backlog. Retrieved from http://concernedveteransforamerica.org/2013/05/02/picking-up-steam-growing-push-for-va-accountability-on-claims-backlog/ House Committee on Veterans' Affairs. (n.d.). House Committee on Veterans' Affairs. Retrieved May 1, 2014, from http://veterans.house.gov Kraft, M., & Furlong, S. (2013). Public Policy: Politics, Analysis, and Alternatives (4th Ed.) Washington D.C.: CQ Press. Mukherjee, S. (2013). America’s Health Care Safety Net Fails Thousands of Veterans Each Year. Retrieved from http://thinkprogress.org/health/2013/11/11/2922381/veterans-america-mental-health-fail/ Rieckhoff, P. (2014). Texas’ shameful backlog on VA claims. Retrieved from http://www.dallasnews.com/opinion/latest-columns/20140218-texas-shameful-va-disability-claims-backlog.ece TRICARE, (2014). Proposed TRICARE Fee Changes | Military.com. (n.d.). Proposed TRICARE Fee Changes | Military.com. Retrieved April 23, 2014, from http://www.military.com/benefits/tricare/retiree/proposed-tricare-fee-changes.html

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