Report Summary

Title: Inspection of VA Regional Office Huntington, West Virginia
Report Number: 14-02101-09 Download
Issue Date: 11/17/2014
City/State: Huntington, WV
VA Office: Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA)
Report Author: Office of Audits and Evaluations
Report Type: Benefit Inspection
Release Type: Unrestricted

We evaluated the Huntington VA Regional Office (VARO) to see how well it accomplishes its mission. We found the VARO staff did not accurately process 27 (40 percent) of 68 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. Specifically, 16 of 30 temporary 100 percent disability evaluations were inaccurate, primarily because staff delayed reducing benefits after receiving medical evidence that veterans’ disabilities had improved, or delayed scheduling required reexaminations after receiving reminder notifications. In contrast, 22 of the 30 cases reviewed during our 2011 inspection contained errors, generally because VARO staff did not enter suspense diaries in the electronic record. Staff incorrectly processed 6 of 26 traumatic brain injury (TBI) claims, primarily because they misinterpreted VBA policy for rating a TBI with a coexisting mental condition. By comparison, in 2011, 3 of 5 cases reviewed during an inspection contained errors due to staff misinterpreting TBI policy and inadequate quality assurance. VARO staff also incorrectly processed 5 of 12 claims related to Special Monthly Compensation (SMC) and ancillary benefits. Generally, SMC errors occurred because staff did not follow local second-signature policy. For two consecutive benefit inspections, VARO managers ensured Systematic Analyses of Operations were complete and timely. However, staff delayed completing 8 of 28 benefits reduction cases because VARO management considered other work to be a higher priority. We recommended the VARO Director develop and implement a plan to ensure staff review and take appropriate action on the 138 temporary 100 percent disability evaluations remaining from our inspection universe. The Director needs to ensure staff return insufficient medical examination reports, provide refresher training on processing TBI, and monitor training effectiveness. Further, the Director should provide training and ensure effective second-signature reviews of SMC claims, as well as develop a plan to prioritize actions on benefits reduction cases. The VARO Director concurred with all recommendations.