VA won't audit 72,000 PTSD claims
WASHINGTON — Veterans Affairs officials have dropped plans to audit more than 72,000 post traumatic stress disorder disability claims for evidence of fraud, noting that they now believe most of the irregularities in the system are simply clerical errors.
The department had announced in August plans to review every case in which a veteran had received a 100 percent disability rating for PTSD. Earlier this year, an investigation of 2,100 such cases found that one in four lacked the proper evidence to justify those claims.
But on Thursday, Veterans Affairs Secretary Jim Nicholson announced that a closer look at that investigation showed mostly administrative problems such as missing documentation.
“In the absence of evidence of fraud, we’re not going to put our veterans through the anxiety of a widespread review of their disability claims,” he said in a statement.
The decision comes after months of angry criticism from lawmakers and veterans groups.
In September, the Senate passed legislation to stop the proposed audit until officials could provide justification to Congress. In October, Democrats on the House Veterans Affairs Committee accused the department of conducting an illegal review and unnecessarily scaring veterans.
Earlier this month, the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S. sent a letter to every member of Congress asking them to block the audit and protect veterans’ health benefits.
“We thought it was a bad idea to start with, and we’re extremely pleased that the review has been canceled,” said Joe Davis, spokesman for the VFW. “Now we can move on to actually taking care of our veterans.”
VA officials said that in lieu of the audit, they’ll review policies for training personnel who handle the disability ratings and adopt stricter administrative oversight.
The investigation into the PTSD cases was prompted by inequities found in how various states award their disability benefits. Last month, the VA inspector general testified before Congress that the percent of veterans being labeled 100 percent disabled and the average yearly medical payments vary greatly from state to state.