Jordain Carney | The VA Scandal Just Keeps Spreading

The VA has been embroiled in scandal in recent months because of allegations that staffers within the VA’s health care agency cooked the books on how long veterans waited before they received a medical appointment.

The House Veterans Affairs Committee has held a string of hearings on problems within the VA, and Monday’s witnesses—like those before them—pointed to a lack of leadership.

“The VA’s problems are a result of morally bankrupt managers,” said Kristen Ruell, who works in the Veterans Benefits Administration’s Philadelphia office, adding that she believes she has been retaliated against for raising concerns about how claims are handled in her office.

Their testimony follows a string of reports released Monday from the VA’s Office of Inspector General that suggest that VA workers were making errors in a rush to cut down the number of claims.

One report from the inspector general revealed that a worker in the VA’s Baltimore regional office inappropriately stored 8,000 documents that could impact benefits payments.

Meanwhile, the VA on Monday said it has processed a million claims so far during fiscal 2014, and it expects to bring the total to 1.3 million claims by the end of September. The department has had “tremendous success” toward ending the backlog next year, said Allison Hickey, the undersecretary for benefits, in a statement.

But Ruell said that “if you have a different kind of claim, it might not be included in the definition of the backlog.”

And Linda Halliday, the assistant inspector general for audits and evaluations, said in her prepared testimony that the VA has focused on cutting the backlog to the detriment of its other workloads—some of which are growing “at an alarming rate.”


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