Video: VA scandals "far from over," as far as ... Hawaii

Has the change in management at the Veterans Administration had an impact on the performance within the organization? Not so anyone would notice, at least if the Hawaii VA offers any indication. Even after the initial wait-list fraud got exposed in Phoenix and several other VA offices, the Honolulu office began manipulating benefits data to make their performance look better — at the expense of veterans that need their services:

A supervisor at the Veterans Administration office in Honolulu was manipulating data to make it look as though the agency was processing veterans’ benefits claims faster than they actually were, according to a new report by the VA Office of Inspector General.

The data manipulation happened last year, when there was heightened scrutiny nationwide over how long veterans were waiting to see doctors.

The electronic records altered in Honolulu dealt with benefits claims, not medical appointments. But the finding underscores that there are ongoing problems within the system. …

Those data manipulations resulted in delays for the delivery of benefits to veterans, including benefits such as payments for dependents, Arronte said.

The total number of veterans impacted hasn’t yet been calculated. The issue emerged from audits, where two samples showed that 72% to 90% of the records had been manipulated to disguise non-performance on benefits requests. The total number from those samples is 143 veterans, but now the Honolulu VA has to go through all of its records to see just how many veterans need to get attention. It might end up being “much higher” than 143, the Associated Press’ Cathy Bussewitz reports.

That problem isn’t unique, either. An official within the VA’s Inspector General office told Bussewitz that they had seen similar manipulation of quality controls on benefits processing in at least four other offices. Clearly, the message from the scandal has not been received.

It could be worse. This veteran has waited fifty-seven years to get his benefits straightened out:

“I have been fighting them (for) 57 years to get my disability,” said Cannon.

Cannon served in the army in 1955 at Fort Sill, Oklahoma.

He says he was directing traffic at the base, when a driver in a convoy was blinded by lights.

“A car didn’t see me and ran into me,” said Cannon. …

Soon after, he filed for disability benefits and has been waiting ever since. Cannon says the VA told him it didn’t have records showing his injuries were service related.

“They say all my records were burnt up [sic] in a fire in Ohio,” said Cannon.

James Hagar has waited for almost 40 years, and he’s had to file bankruptcy:

Hagar said he was flown to the hospital to receive care and was later given extensive medical bills that reached up to $200,000.

Despite being on active duty at the time, Hagar said the VA never paid the bills. As a result of the missing payments, Hagar had to file bankruptcy.

Now, after losing everything, Hagar lives in a camper that he still owes money on.

“I almost got it paid off. I think I owe about $1,200 on my camper here,” said Hagar.

On top of that, Hagar said he’s still waiting to get the benefits from injuries he sustained in the crash. Hagar read us a statement from the VA that stated he was eligible for 20 percent compensation. The statement was written in 2013, and he told us he still hasn’t received any benefit money.

The VA has reduced its benefit claims backlog over the past two years, but a November report by the Government Accountability Office found flaws in the system the VA uses to determine claim accuracy. The Department of Veterans Affairs talked to 2 Works for You via satellite from Washington D.C. They told us the department is correcting issues raised in the report.

The issues for treatment could be solved through privatization. Benefits management for veterans at the VA are a different matter, unless the government chooses to outsource its management of VA benefits. That task requires competence and accountability, and the constant discovery of ongoing corruptions in these processes intended for the benefit of bureaucrats indicates that the VA still has not achieved either quality. In the meantime, men and women remain stuck inside the single-payer system when they need to use these benefits while the system continually demonstrates the need to introduce real competition and choice in as many areas as possible.

When will Congress and the Obama administration put veterans first, rather than the bureaucrats?