07.18.14

Legislative Update from Senator Richard Burr

On Monday, the VA Office of the Inspector General (IG) released a report on the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) two-year-old claim initiative. This initiative was purportedly started by the Department to process long-pending claims more quickly. I requested this latest report, along with several other Senators.

The IG report confirmed that VA's 'fix' to its backlog process was just smoke and mirrors-- another example of VA manipulating the data to make it appear as if veterans are being well served. It is absolutely shameful that a department charged with the care of our nation's veterans would choose to resort to practices that negatively affect them and inaccurately portray the VA's workload. You can read a summary of the report's findings here.

The IG report released Monday afternoon played a large role in the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs hearing that took place Monday evening. Linda Halliday, the witness from the VA Office of Inspector General (IG), offered damaging testimony that outlined many troubling issues at VA, including a high rate of errors in processing claims, as mentioned above; work that does not fall under the Veterans Benefits Administration's (VBA) backlog statistic "increasing at alarming rates"; "notable weaknesses in financial stewardship"; and mis-management at regional offices.

This testimony is particularly damning, as it shows the utter dysfunction and deeply systemic problems at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). I cannot see how VA can continue to claim success in their claims backlog or caring for our veterans. Clearly, the VA has not been upholding its responsibilities either to veterans or to taxpayers.

Despite Monday's events, the VA chose to put out a press release on Tuesday to tout their supposed backlog reduction. This press release used the manipulated data that was refuted by both the Inspector General and during the House Committee hearing the night before. Why the VA would choose to ignore the recent events and send out this press release perplexed me.

During Wednesday's Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs hearing, I was able to ask acting Secretary Gibson if he approved the press release and why publicizing suspect data would bring about trust and integrity in his Department. Unfortunately, I did not receive a satisfactory answer from Secretary Gibson.

You can watch the full line of questioning by clicking below or here.

Senator Burr Questions Acting Secretary Gibson

Senator Burr's Opening Statement

You can also watch my opening statement from the hearing by clicking above or you can read my statement in full by clicking here.

Next week the President's VA Secretary nominee, Robert McDonald, will come before the Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs for his confirmation hearing. I look forward to hearing Mr. McDonald's thoughts on the Department and potential solutions to the VA's systemic problems.