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

Report Summary

Title: Inspection of the VA Regional Office Anchorage, Alaska
Report Number: 17-02084-343 Download
Report
Issue Date: 9/29/2017
City/State: Anchorage, AK
VA Office: Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA)
Report Author: Office of Audits and Evaluations
Report Type: Benefits Inspection
Release Type: Unrestricted
Summary:

In May 2017, we evaluated the Department of Veterans Affairs Regional Office (VARO) in Anchorage, Alaska, to see how well staff processed veterans’ disability claims, timely and accurately processed proposed rating reductions, input claim information, and responded to special controlled correspondence.

We found Anchorage Veterans Service Center (VSC) consistently processed two types of disability claims we reviewed. We reviewed 30 of 124 veterans’ traumatic brain injury (TBI) claims (24 percent) and found that Rating Veterans Service Representatives (RVSR) accurately processed 28 of 30 claims—a significant improvement from our 2013 inspection when staff incorrectly processed three of the eight claims we sampled (38 percent). VSC staff processed proposed rating reductions accurately. However, we reviewed all 11 benefits reductions and found that staff delayed six of them (55 percent). Delays occurred because the Veterans Service Center Manager (VSCM) and Supervisory Veterans Service Representatives did not view this work as a priority at the expiration of the due process period, even though the Workload Management Plan directed the Supervisory Veterans Service Representative to identify and prioritize the 10 oldest non-rating claims each month, to include proposed rating reductions. Moreover, management and staff stated that the national backlog of disability claims was prioritized higher than proposed rating reductions.

VSC staff needed to improve the accuracy of information input into the electronic systems at the time of claims establishment. We reviewed 30 of 243 newly established claims (12 percent) and found that staff did not correctly input claim and claimant information into the electronic systems in nine of the 30 claims (30 percent) due to ineffective oversight and training.

Anchorage congressional liaison staff responded to special controlled correspondence accurately. However, improvements were needed to ensure documentation of receipt of special controlled correspondences in the electronic systems. We reviewed all four special controlled correspondences and found that staff did not properly document the dates of receipt of the special controlled correspondence inquiries due to inadequate oversight by VSC management and lack of training.

We recommended the VARO Director implement a plan to ensure prioritization of proposed rating reductions; strengthen oversight for the claims establishment review process; implement a plan to monitor the effectiveness of training related to claims establishment; provide training to congressional liaison staff; and strengthen oversight for special controlled correspondence.

The VARO Director concurred with our recommendations. Management’s planned actions are responsive and we will follow up as required.