INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Amid allegations the VA is delaying medical care, the Inspector General found more problems with delayed benefits in Indianapolis.
The VA has been under fire for the backlog of benefits. This time the delays in Indianapolis may force the VA to pay out nearly $1 million to veterans.
The investigation into allegations of misuse of beneficiary funds by assigned trustees was prompted by a tip to the Inspector General hotline last year about problems at the Eastern Area Fiduciary Hub. All three allegations were substantiated, according to an IG report. The office is supposed to take only 14 days for an initial review of an allegation that beneficiary funds have been misused. The IG says nearly 90 percent of those reviews took longer, averaging 162 days. Because of the delays the VA may have to pay nearly $1 million in restitution to 12 beneficiaries.
The IG also found cases that needed additional investigation were also not followed up on in the required time.
The Indianapolis hub employs 200 people and serves 14 states. Managers told the IG [See the full report below] they didn’t have enough staff after the offices consolidated in 2012. They also blamed “a lack of management oversight” for the problems.
Investigators say it will take years for the office to reduce the backlog of pending field examinations — more than 11,000 last August.
“The general health and well-being of beneficiaries is at increased risk,” the IG report said.
Compounding the backlog, the IG found trouble in the mail room. 3,200 pieces of mail had not been processed on time, including some pieces of mail delayed 486 days.
Managers blamed the delays on workload, staff turnover, staff shortages and being focused on other priorities. I-Team 8 reported in February the regional director of the Indianapolis office took a performance bonus. He said it was for creating the hub that is now under investigation by the IG.
Below is a statement from the IG:
Below is the full report from the IG:
If you have had or are currently having problems with the VA regional benefits office or Roudebush VA Medical Center contact Karen directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.