Report Summary

Title: Review of Alleged Appeals Data Manipulation at the VA Regional Office, Roanoke, Virginia
Report Number: 17-00397-364 Download
Issue Date: 12/5/2017
City/State: Roanoke, VA
VA Office: Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA)
Report Author: Office of Audits and Evaluations
Report Type: Audit
Release Type: Unrestricted

The OIG received an anonymous allegation that VSC staff at the Roanoke VARO combined appeals to lower the pending inventory and achieve production goals by entering incorrect data into VA’s electronic system. The OIG reviewed 331 appeal records that were closed indicating they were withdrawn by appellants. The OIG determined 278 were improperly closed because the electronic record did not contain any evidence of a withdrawal request by the appellant. In 276 of the 278 closed appeal records, the pending issues were merged with other open appeal records. In two cases, appeals management and staff failed to add all pending issues to other open appeal records. Both of these appeal records were reactivated as a result of the OIG’s review.

Merging issues into one record was a longstanding practice at the Roanoke VARO to reduce the pending workload. VARO and VSC management were unaware of this practice, and appeals managers knew of it but were unaware of its full impact. Merging appeal records gave a false impression that the appeals inventory decreased. Subsequently, the reported statistics for the number of pending and completed appeals at the Roanoke VARO were inaccurate, and the associated timeliness measurements were unreliable. The OIG could not determine what the VARO’s actual statistics should have been since staff appeared to have been following this guidance from at least September 2008.

The OIG recommended the Roanoke VARO Director conduct a review to identify prematurely closed appeal records, and confer with appropriate VBA officials to determine the proper corrective actions to take, if any. The OIG also recommended the director confer with regional counsel to determine what steps to take, if any, with regard to management or staff involved in the conduct discussed in this report. The VARO Director concurred with our recommendations; planned corrective actions are responsive.