1/29/09

"Under-Reported and Poorly Handled"

Luis Montalvan and Aaron Glantz, writing for Huffpost, called the story of the "woefully inefficient, corruption-riddled" New York Regional Veterans' Affairs Office "underreported and poorly handled".

In 1956, when half the American population consisted of veterans and servicemen and caring for vets was a national priority, the Veterans' Administration helped returning vets adjust to civilian life.

The New York regional VA headquarters is at same address today as in 1956, at 245 W. Houston St. in Manhattan.  And it is still supposed to "...provide benefits and services to veterans and their dependents in an accurate and timely manner which our customers recognize as compassionate and responsive." But according to VA sources, the New York Regional Office, with the second slowest turnaround rate for processing veterans' disability claims of the 57 state offices, is not fulfilling its mission.

Wounded veterans -- there are 600,000 of them on the national waiting list -- have to wait from months to years to receive badly-needed disability benefits.

In November last year, Joseph Collorafi, division chief of the New York Regional VA Office, was suspended after an investigation revealing that his office was intentionally back-dating veterans' claims documents.  Internal audits revealed that over half of all disability claims processed through the New York regional office had been illegally altered, and that incoming mail was being ignored.

In a letter last month to outgoing Veterans Affairs Secretary James Peake, Sen. Hillary Clinton wrote, "It is my understanding that several employees confessed that they were instructed by their supervisors to enter incorrect dates on the claims in an attempt to manipulate processing times."

New York Regional VA director Patricia Amberg-Blyskal was merely transferred, not disciplined, and no criminal charges were filed.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg has been "invisible" on the issue of veterans' benefits, according to the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA).

No Congressional hearings were scheduled on the issue.

Wounded Iraq and Afghanistan vets deserve better from us -- and our elected officials.

The article from Huffington Post.

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