An investigation of the Veterans Benefits Administration Office in St. Petersburg reveals a chaotic and disorganized system. This may account for some of the more than 21,000 disability claims pending at this particular office.
Conducted by the Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General in March, the investigation found an assortment of problems with paperwork and files. Some of the issues included misfiled and lost records, along with files stacked in piles.
The mailroom was just one of the areas experiencing difficulties. This included delays in sorting and preparing evidence mail that helps claim processors make decisions on a claim. According to employees, it’s about a three-week delay.
Failure to stamp certain records was another problem. This included copies of Official Military Personnel and Service Treatment Records files. Without identifying this documentation, it’s difficult to process a claim.
The file room was another source of disarray. Some claims had to be rebuilt because of lost documents. The office was keeping a log of these files but some of the records were mistakenly overwritten by an employee.
Officials from Veterans Benefits Administration acknowledge the St. Petersburg office has resolved two of three recommendations. They are still working on the other. It’s also reported that since March 2013, the number of backlogged claims (those older than 125 days) has dropped by 41 percent. Yet, the numbers still show a significant problem exists. Of the 36,622 rating claims pending at the St. Petersburg office, 21,222 have been pending longer than 125 days.
Eliminating paper files will address many of the issues found in this (and other) regional offices. But that effort is still in the works, with about 87 percent of the VA’s files now available electronically.
Veterans can help reduce delays by submitting paperwork on time and making sure it’s completed properly and including the appropriate documentation, such as evidence of military service or disability. For help with filing an initial claim or appealing a denied claim, contact the Law Offices of Veterans Help Group today at 855-855-8992.