Report Summary

Title: Inspection of the VA Regional Office St. Louis, Missouri
Report Number: 17-02150-340
Issue Date: 9/7/2017
City/State: St. Louis, MO
VA Office: Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA)
Report Author: Office of Audits and Evaluations
Report Type: Benefits Inspection
Release Type: Unrestricted
Summary: In May 2017, OIG evaluated the St. Louis, MO, VA Regional Office (VARO) to determine how well Veterans Service Center (VSC) staff processed disability claims, processed proposed rating reductions, accurately input claims-related information, and responded to special controlled correspondence. VSC staff did not consistently process one of the two types of disability claims reviewed. OIG reviewed 30 veterans’ traumatic brain injury claims and found staff accurately processed 29. Additionally, OIG reviewed 30 veterans’ special monthly compensation (SMC) or ancillary benefit claims and found staff incorrectly processed four. This resulted in improper payments totaling approximately $39,900. Errors occurred because staff did not see these cases frequently enough to gain familiarity with them. VSC staff needed to improve timeliness and accuracy in processing rating reductions. OIG reviewed 30 rating reduction cases and found staff delayed or incorrectly processed 16. Delays were due to prioritization of other workloads and resulted in about $83,100 in overpayments. Inaccuracies were due to ineffective training and resulted in approximately $5,300 in improper payments. VSC staff needed to improve accuracy of data entered into electronic systems during claims establishment. OIG reviewed 30 claims and found staff did not correctly establish 16 due to ineffective training. VSC staff needed to improve timeliness and accuracy in processing special correspondence. OIG reviewed 30 special correspondences and found staff incorrectly processed 25 due to insufficient staffing and lack of training. OIG recommended the VARO Director implement plans to provide training for SMC, rating reductions, and special correspondence. OIG also recommended the Director monitor the effectiveness of recent training for claims establishment procedures, ensure SMC decisions receive second signature reviews by designated staff, ensure benefit reductions are processed at due process expiration, and allocate resources to process special correspondence. The VARO Director concurred with the recommendations, and planned actions are responsive.