Friday, July 20, 2007

Something Else I Did Not Know

According to an AP report published in The Sacramento Bee yesterday, where an injured veteran lives often determines how much disability pay he or she receives.

Injured veterans could be shortchanged in their government disability pay depending on where they live because of wide disparities from state to state, an internal study concludes. ...

Since reports of disparities emerged in 2005, the VA has struggled to explain them. It has largely blamed problems on demographic factors beyond its control; for instance, whether a particular state had more Vietnam veterans, who on average receive higher payments, or whether a veteran had legal help when making a claim.

But the study released to the AP found that roughly one-third of the problems could be blamed on poor VA standards and inadequate training. As a result, disability raters in VA regional offices often had too much power and discretion to decide how much pay a veteran was entitled.

The report also faulted the VA for not collecting data on certain types of claims, such as how many post-traumatic stress disorder cases are rejected. As a result, it was impossible to determine whether part of the disparity might be due to a VA office inappropriately rejecting a high number of claims for PTSD, a signature injury of the Iraq war. ...

Among the findings:

-PTSD claims generate among the highest disability pay, averaging $20,000 each year to more than 200,000 veterans. While VA staff expected PTSD claims would be more subjective from state to state, their ratings were actually more stable compared with other injuries and illnesses, such as cardiovascular problems.

-Veterans who receive legal help or aid from advocacy groups receive on average $11,162, compared with $4,728 for those who go it alone. Currently about two-thirds of veterans get such advocacy help; the highest representation is in North Dakota (81.9 percent), while the lowest is in Maryland (44.8 percent).

-Vietnam veterans received annual awards of $11,670, compared with $7,410 for those who fought in other wars. The lowest pay was given to Gulf War veterans - $6,506.

Something's wrong here, and the VA has already promised to improve the training of staff so such disparities are removed. Officials have also indicated that they will be hiring additional staff so that data collection procedures are improved, which should help with making the criteria used in the decision process more objective. That's a good start, but Congress needs to keep a close watch on the agency.

Note: For the state-by-state ranking go here. I was surprised by quite a few of the entries.



Blogger WGG, Rogue Scholar & Tokin Lib'rul said...

THe purpose of the VA, it has long seemed to me, has been to make it appear that the govt is helping vets, while keeping the number whom they help to as small as possible.

6:01 AM  

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