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Department of Veterans Affairs, Office of Inspector General
Michael J. Missal, Inspector General

Report Summary

Title: Inspection of VA Regional Office Houston, Texas
Report Number: 13-00367-226 Download
Issue Date: 6/24/2013
City/State: Houston, TX
VA Office: Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA)
Report Author: Office of Audits and Evaluations
Report Type: Benefits Inspection
Release Type: Unrestricted

We evaluated the Houston VARO to see how well it accomplishes its mission. We found the VARO staff did not accurately process 37 (62 percent) of 60 disability claims we reviewed. We sampled claims for certain types of medical disabilities that we considered to be at higher risk of processing errors, so these results do not represent the overall accuracy of disability claims processing at this VARO. Specific to the claims we reviewed, 22 of 30 temporary 100 percent disability evaluations were inaccurate. Generally, these errors occurred because VARO management did not ensure staff took appropriate action to reduce benefits when required, and staff did not follow up on requests for hearings where veterans could present additional evidence to show that temporary 100 percent evaluations were still warranted. Also, staff misinterpreted VBA policy and inaccurately processed 15 of 30 traumatic brain injury claims. Further, VARO managers did not ensure staff accurately completed Systematic Analyses of Operations or addressed Gulf War veterans’ entitlement to mental health treatment. VARO staff provided adequate outreach to homeless veterans.

We recommended the VARO Director implement a plan to ensure staff comply with VBA policy to reduce temporary 100 percent disability evaluations, and follow up on hearing requests associated with proposed reductions in benefits. The Director should also ensure staff review the 689 temporary 100 percent disability evaluations remaining from our inspection universe and take action to manage these evaluations appropriately. Further, the Director should implement a plan to ensure effective training and accurate second signature reviews of traumatic brain injury claims. The Director should also provide refresher training and ensure the Systematic Analyses of Operations checklist is amended to address all elements required by current VBA policy. The VARO Director concurred with our recommendations.