Report Summary

Title: Inspection of the VA Regional Office, St. Petersburg, Florida
Report Number: 11-04243-86
Issue Date: 2/8/2012
City/State: St. Petersburg, FL
VA Office: Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA)
Report Author: Office of Audits and Evaluations
Report Type: Benefits Inspection
Release Type: Unrestricted
Summary: We conducted this inspection to evaluate how well the St. Petersburg VARO accomplishes their mission. We found the St. Petersburg VARO staff timely processed homeless veterans’ claims, provided adequate outreach to homeless shelters and service providers, and followed VBA’s policy for correcting errors identified by STAR program staff. VARO performance was generally effective in processing herbicide exposure-related claims. The VARO also lacked effective controls and accuracy in processing some disability claims. Inaccuracies in processing temporary 100 percent disability evaluations resulted when staff did not schedule medical reexaminations. In addition, VARO staff used insufficient medical examination reports to process traumatic brain injury claims. VARO staff did not correctly process 42 (47 percent) of the 90 disability claims we sampled during our inspection. These results do not represent the overall accuracy of disability claims processing at this VARO. VARO management did not ensure staff completed SAOs, properly processed mail, and accurately addressed Gulf War veterans’ entitlement to mental health treatment. Further, processing of competency determinations was not effective, resulting in unnecessary delays in making final decisions and improper benefits payments. We recommended the VARO Director develop and implement a plan to monitor the effectiveness of training and ensure staff follow current VBA policy. The VARO Director concurred with our recommendations.