Albuquerque Man Sentenced to Probation for Stealing from Department of Veterans Affairs02/09/2015 07:00 PM EST

February 27th, 2015

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02/09/2015 07:00 PM EST


$179K in Restitution, 2 Years’ Probation for New Mexico Man Who Stole VA Deposits from Bank Account

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Review of Alleged Data Manipulation at the VA Regional Office Little Rock, Arkansas02/25/2015 07:00 PM EST

February 26th, 2015

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02/25/2015 07:00 PM EST


On July 11, 2014, the Office of Inspector General (OIG) received an anonymous allegation that staff at the Little Rock VA Regional Office (VARO) inappropriately applied the Veterans Benefits Administration’s (VBA) Fast Letter 13-10, “Guidance on Date of Claim Issues,” dated May 20, 2013. The complainant alleged that adjusting the dates of claims was done to give the appearance that VBA was making more progress than it actually had in eliminating its backlog of disability claims. On June 27, 2014, the Under Secretary for Benefits suspended use of Fast Letter 13-10 after the OIG determined staff were misapplying the guidance at another VARO. We had previously reported to the Under Secretary for Benefits that the guidance was used inappropriately to adjust dates of claims for unadjudicated claims discovered in the files. Changes to veterans’ claims were made to process old mail instead of unadjudicated claims information found in the files. We substantiated the allegation that Little Rock VARO staff adjusted dates of claims for unadjudicated claims discovered in the files; however, staff did so in compliance with VBA Fast Letter guidance in effect at that time. We reviewed documentation on 48 unadjudicated claims that VARO staff located in claims folders from May 22, 2013, through June 20, 2014. Staff adjusted the dates of claim for all 48 cases we reviewed, resulting in the claims having more current dates than the dates they were initially received within VA. Staff we interviewed raised concerns that the use of this guidance led to providing veterans with incorrect information on claims processing timeliness. The application of this guidance was also considered inconsistent with VBA standard policy requiring use of the earliest date that a document is stamped as received at a VA facility as the date of claim. Staff typically process claims in their workloads by claim type and age, generally working the oldest claims first. This VARO maintained records of the changes made to veterans’ claims per the requirements in the guidance. To mitigate the potentially adverse effect the date adjustments would have on veterans’ benefits, Little Rock VARO staff took the initiative to develop a spreadsheet to track all unadjudicated claims found in the claims folders where dates of claims were changed. This action provided VARO managers with assurance that staff could easily identify the claims and initiate required development actions. Based on our review, we concluded that adjusting the dates of aging claims to more recent “discovered” dates resulted in a lack of assurance that staff would expedite processing of the discovered unadjudicated claims, further delaying benefits decisions for veterans. Adjusting the dates of claims also misrepresented the time required for VARO staff to process the claims, potentially making performance look better than it actually was. In order to minimize confusion or misinterpretation of guidance for future claims processing, we recommended that VBA maintain a standard, universal policy for establishing dates of claims. In a memo, received January 8, 2015, the Under Secretary for Benefits (USB) concurred with our recommendation and reported VBA terminated the use of FL 13-10, effective June 27, 2014. The memo also indicated all VARO staff had been instructed to immediately follow the permanent procedural guidance found in VBA’s governing directives for all claims, to include “found” claims. However, as outlined in this report, we concluded that VBA did not take action to terminate FL 13-10 until January 22, 2015. Further, we remain concerned that VBA’s permanent guidance related to dates of claims continues to provide for an exception that allows VARO staff to use a later date of claim, despite having evidence that an earlier date of claim exists.

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Combined Assessment Program Review of the VA Ann Arbor Healthcare System, Ann Arbor, Michigan02/24/2015 07:00 PM EST

February 25th, 2015

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02/24/2015 07:00 PM EST


The VA Office of Inspector General (OIG) conducted a review to evaluate selected health care facility operations, focusing on patient care quality and the environment of care. During the review, OIG provided crime awareness briefings to 120 employees. This review focused on eight operational activities. The facility complied with selected standards in the environment of care activity. The facility’s reported accomplishments were the Planetree model of patient care and veteran-centered care principles and receipt of the VA National Center for Patient Safety Gold Cornerstone Award. OIG made recommendations for improvement in the following seven activities: (1) quality management, (2), medication management (3) coordination of care, (4) magnetic resonance imaging safety, (5) acute ischemic stroke care, (6) surgical complexity, and (7) emergency airway management.

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Inspection of the VA Regional Office Boston, Massachusetts02/23/2015 07:00 PM EST

February 24th, 2015

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02/23/2015 07:00 PM EST


We evaluated the Boston VA Regional Office (VARO) to see how well its staff processes disability claims and provides a range of services to veterans. We also interviewed VARO staff to gain a better understanding of how a VARO implemented Fast Letter 13-10 “Guidance on Date of Claims Issues.” Overall, VARO staff did not accurately process 21 (23 percent) of 90 disability claims we reviewed. We sampled claims we considered at increased risk of processing errors, thus these results do not represent the overall accuracy of disability claims processing at this VARO. For the disability claims and processing actions reviewed: (1) Ten of 30 temporary 100 percent evaluations were inaccurate, primarily because staff did not take timely action on reminders for medical reexaminations. In contrast, in February 2011 we reported errors in 25 of 30 cases, mainly due to staff not taking action to input suspense diaries in the electronic record. (2) Five of 30 traumatic brain injury (TBI) claims were inaccurate, primarily because oversight was lacking to ensure staff complied with VBA’s second-signature policy. This area improved since our February 2011 report where 11 of 30 TBI cases had errors due to a lack of training. (3) Six of 30 special monthly compensation and ancillary claims were inaccurate due to insufficient refresher training. (4) Lacking authority to deviate from VBA’s policy requiring Systematic Analysis of Operations (SAO), the Director suspended SAOs in 2013 due to VBA’s emphasis on production requirements. (5) Staff delayed completing 6 of 30 benefits reductions cases because management prioritized other work higher. While conducting research related to the implementation of Fast Letter 13-10, we determined one Boston VARO employee misapplied the guidance by adjusting the dates of claims that were 2 weeks or older. The employee indicated the 2-week standard was his own interpretation and not provided by management. The Boston VARO Director needs to implement plans to ensure timely action on reminders for medical reexaminations; take appropriate action on the 189 temporary 100 percent disability evaluations remaining from our inspection universe; ensure secondary reviews and conduct training on processing TBI and special monthly compensation claims; improve management of SAOs; and prioritize actions related to benefit reduction cases. The Director of the Boston VARO concurred with all recommendations. Management’s planned actions are responsive and we will follow up as required.

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By CHRISTOPHER BRENNAN FOR DAILYMAIL.COM PUBLISHED: 00:29 EST, 24 February 2015 | UPDATED: 01:28 EST, 24 February 2015

February 24th, 2015

Veterans Affairs Secretary admits he LIED about serving in Special Forces during encounter with homeless veteran that was caught on camera
Robert McDonald, who took over VA last year, says he ‘reacted wrongly’
Secretary told homeless man that he, too, served in Army Special Forces
White House says McDonald ‘never intended to misrepresent’ his service
By CHRISTOPHER BRENNAN FOR DAILYMAIL.COM
PUBLISHED: 00:29 EST, 24 February 2015 | UPDATED: 01:28 EST, 24 February 2015

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2966218/No-excuse-Veterans-Affairs-Secretary-admits-lied-homeless-man-serving-special-forces-White-House-says-word.html#ixzz3SeaDszvt
Follow us: @MailOnline on Twitter | DailyMail on Facebook

Statement from Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert A. McDonald on Oscar Win for HBO Documentary Highlighting Life-Saving Work of Veterans Crisis Line 02/23/2015 11:08 AM EST

February 23rd, 2015

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Statement from Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert A. McDonald on Oscar Win for HBO Documentary Highlighting Life-Saving Work of Veterans Crisis Line
02/23/2015 11:08 AM EST

Statement from Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert A. McDonald on Oscar Win for HBO Documentary Highlighting Life-Saving Work of Veterans Crisis Line

Washington – Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert A. McDonald issued the following statement on the Oscar win for the HBO documentary CRISIS HOTLINE: VETERANS PRESS 1.

“We are pleased that this film has highlighted the challenges our Veterans can face and the work of our dedicated Veterans Crisis Line staff to save lives and get Veterans into care,” said VA Secretary Robert McDonald. “We are hopeful that this documentary will help raise awareness of this important issue with the American public. Our Veterans in crisis need to know that there is hope and asking for help makes them stronger.”

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Review of the Allegation Concerning Information Presented in the Deputy Secretary’s Official Biography 02/18/2015 07:00 PM EST

February 19th, 2015

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Review of the Allegation Concerning Information Presented in the Deputy Secretary’s Official Biography
02/18/2015 07:00 PM EST

On December 3, 2014, the Office of Inspector General received an allegation that the official biography of Mr. Sloan Gibson, Deputy Secretary for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs does not present accurate and transparent information. The allegation focused on the information available on VA’s Web site relating to Mr. Gibson’s accomplishments during the period 2008–2013, when he held a leadership role at the United Services Organizations, Inc. (USO). Specifically, the complainant questioned the methodology used to calculate net fundraising, which in turn questioned the source of funds enabling dramatic growth in USO programs and facilities. Using USO’s publically available audited financial statements and program lists from 2008 through 2013, we did not substantiate the allegation. VA OIG does not have oversight authority over the USO. Although congressionally chartered, the USO is a nonprofit, private organization, and not a Government agency. Without access to USO internal financial documents, we could not test the reliability, accuracy, or completeness of the documents received from the complainant. We focused our review specifically on the accuracy of the statement, in the Deputy Secretary’s official biography that “During his five years at the USO, net fundraising grew 90 percent, enabling dramatic growth in programs and facilities supporting our forward-deployed men and women, military families, as well as our wounded, ill, and injured Service members, their families, and the families of the fallen.” The official biography is included at Appendix A of this report. Based on our review of the publically available financial statements, we calculated reasonable, comparable percentages as contained within the official biography. Additionally, we identified a dramatic increase in programs from 2008–2013. In conclusion, we found no physical or testimonial evidence to question the accuracy of the statements made in the VA Deputy Secretary’s official biography. Thus, we are not making a recommendation to change the information in the Deputy Secretary’s official biography.
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Healthcare Inspection – Alleged Lack of Training and Support for Interventional Radiology Procedures, Salem VAMC, Salem, Virginia 02/17/2015 07:00 PM EST

February 19th, 2015

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Healthcare Inspection – Alleged Lack of Training and Support for Interventional Radiology Procedures, Salem VAMC, Salem, Virginia
02/17/2015 07:00 PM EST

OIG conducted an inspection at the request of Senator Tim Kaine in response to allegations that interventional radiology procedures at the Salem VA Medical Center (facility), Salem, VA, were being performed by a radiologist with inadequate training, that the facility lacked adequate medical and surgical support for patients who might develop complications after certain interventional radiology procedures, and that the facility has no formal training and competency program for interventional radiology nurses and technicians. The purpose of the review was to determine whether the allegations had merit. We did not substantiate the allegation that radiology procedures at the facility were being performed by a radiologist with inadequate training. We found that facility credentialing staff properly verified all educational, training, and licensure credentials for the subject radiologist who was then granted initial privileges to perform procedures, including the two procedures named in the allegation. We did not substantiate the allegation that the facility lacked adequate medical and surgical support for patients who might develop complications after certain interventional radiology procedures. The facility has a vascular surgeon and gastroenterologists who are on site during interventional procedures and available should a patient undergoing an interventional radiology procedure need further care. In addition, the facility has a fully equipped Post Anesthesia Care Unit and Intensive Care Unit. We did not substantiate that the facility has no formal training and competency program for interventional radiology nurses and technicians. The facility requires all interventional radiology nurse and technician staff to undergo an annual competency assessment, which is completed by direct observation of the technician while performing his or her duties. We made no recommendations.
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Review of Alleged Mismanagement of Informal Claims Processing at VA Regional Office Oakland, California 02/17/2015 07:00 PM EST

February 19th, 2015

Review of Alleged Mismanagement of Informal Claims Processing at VA Regional Office Oakland, California
02/17/2015 07:00 PM EST

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Review of Alleged Mismanagement of Informal Claims Processing at VA Regional Office Oakland, California
02/17/2015 07:00 PM EST

On July 10, 2014, the Office of Inspector General (OIG) received a request for assistance from the Under Secretary for Benefits to review allegations that the VA Regional Office (VARO) in Oakland, CA, had not processed nearly 14,000 informal requests. The allegation indicated some claims dated back to the mid 1990s. The same allegation was forwarded to us by Representative Doug LaMalfa, who also requested an OIG review. In addition, another complainant alleged that “informal claims” were being improperly stored. We immediately initiated an unannounced, onsite review at VARO Oakland and its Sacramento satellite office. We substantiated the allegations that VARO staff had not processed informal claims. We confirmed that staff had not properly controlled these claims documents, which were accidently found in a filing cabinet, during a construction project. We did not identify any current storage or control issues during our site visit. VARO management advised that a team assisting the Oakland Veterans Service Center (VCS) had located approximately 14,000 informal claims, some of which dated back to the mid-1990s. VA considers an informal claim as any type of communication or action, indicating the intent to apply for one or more benefits, in accordance with existing laws. Management stated it counted the documents and actually identified 13,184 informal claims. Of these 13,184 informal claims, 2,155 required review or action by VARO staff. VARO management told us they had created a “special project team” to process the 2,155 informal claims and thought the task had been completed. However, in April through May 2014, VARO staff again “discovered” additional claims, some of which the VARO’s “special project team” had annotated as reviewed. After two months, VARO management created a tracking spreadsheet to determine which claims needed to be processed. VARO management determined staff (assigned to the special project team) had not processed 537 informal claims. At the time of our onsite review, we could not confirm the existence of the 13,184 informal claims, or which of them were the 2,155 claims needing review or action. We could not confirm the existence of a VARO special project team, their names, or their qualifications. None of the work, claimed to have been accomplished by the VARO staff or management, could be confirmed – much less the accuracy of that work – due to poor record keeping practices. We reviewed 34 of these newly “discovered” claims and found 7 (21 percent) remained unprocessed. While no claims in our sample dated back to the mid-1990s, some were as old as July 2002. We also found VARO staff had repeatedly reviewed these seven informal claims from December 2012 through June 2014 for various reasons, but took additional action on them, as required. VARO staff did not maintain adequate records or provide proper supervision to ensure informal claims received timely processing. As a result, veterans did not receive consideration for benefits to which they may have been entitled. During our inspection, no current issues related to the lack of control and improper storage of informal claims documents came to our attention. We recommended the VARO Director complete and certify the review of the 537 informal claims, take appropriate action, and provide documentation to certify these actions are complete. Also, the Director should better enforce compliance with existing VBA and VARO policies pertaining to the processing of informal claims.
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Alleged Consult Management Issues and Improper Conduct, W.G. (Bill) Hefner VA Medical Center, Salisbury, North Carolina 02/17/2015 07:00 PM EST

February 18th, 2015

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Alleged Consult Management Issues and Improper Conduct, W.G. (Bill) Hefner VA Medical Center, Salisbury, North Carolina
02/17/2015 07:00 PM EST

OIG conducted an inspection in response to allegations that a physician improperly closed Non-VA Care Coordination (NVCC) consults and inappropriate comments were made about a patient at the W.G. (Bill) Hefner VA Medical Center in Salisbury, NC. We did not substantiate the allegation that a physician improperly cancelled or discontinued NVCC consults, thus denying patients needed care. Record reviews of 214 consults revealed that the reasons for cancellation or discontinuation were logical, met Veterans Health Administration and/or local guidelines, and were appropriately documented. While we substantiated the allegation that a physician made an inappropriate comment about a patient, we found that the facility took appropriate action and the physician apologized for the statement. We made no recommendations.
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