Inspectors surveying Philadelphia’s Veterans Affairs benefits center in June found two stunning signs of disarray: mail bins brimming with claims dating to 2011 and other benefits that had been paid twice.
More alarming, the team from the VA Office of Inspector General found evidence that staff tasked with managing pensions for the eastern United States were manipulating dates to make old claims appear new, according to a report obtained by The Inquirer.
…Two whistle-blowers who work at the Philadelphia Veterans Affairs Regional Office, where the offenses were discovered, described the process the same: “cooking the books.”
“They’re hiding the real numbers from the people and saying, ‘We’re catching up to the backlog,’ ” said Ryan Cease, 31, who has worked at the Germantown facility for about five years. “But they’re not. They’re just hiding it.”
It gets worse:
The VA Inspector General’s Office said its probe also must address other allegations at the Philadelphia regional office. They include:
Staff “cherry picking” easy claims and processing them out of order to inflate performance.
Staff not addressing more than 32,000 electronic inquiries from veterans regarding the status of their claims.
Staff hiding mail.
Staff shredding military and returned mail that couldn’t be delivered.
Managers being aware of duplicate payments being made to veterans and directing staff to write off the overpayments.
If the VA were a private hospital we would be seeing these department heads in courts for criminal prosecution. Instead they are being allowed to retire, as Shinseki was, or just being told to fix the problem. City after city this kind of stuff is being discovered…and still our veterans wait.