What’s the story?

Is the Department of Veterans Affairs making mistakes on war-related disability claims at a higher rate than previously acknowledged? The Center for Investigative Reporting reviewed a year’s worth of VA inspector general’s audits and found an error rate of 38 percent in a sample of 1,200 high-profile claims. The VA, which acknowledges it makes mistakes on 14 percent of disability claims, says the targeted audits are not an accurate representation of the agency as a whole. But veterans’ appeals clog the system, lengthening the delays for all veterans. Nationwide, the average wait time for an answer on a claim is 260 days, two months longer than a year ago.

Who is accountable?

  • The Department of Veterans Affairs is the federal agency responsible for ensuring the care of veterans and their families. It is headquartered in Washington, D.C., and its 58 regional offices nationwide administer a variety of benefits, from home loan guaranty and the GI Bill to disability and health care benefits.
  • The VA’s Office of Inspector General provides oversight and conducts audits and evaluations of the performance of the regional offices. See performance evaluations for some of the 58 regional offices.
  • The House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs is the congressional authorizing body for the VA. It makes recommendations for legislation to expand, reduce or fine-tunes laws related to veterans’ benefits. Additionally, the committee has oversight responsibility for the VA, ensuring the agency functions properly. The Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs is charged with managing the status of the VA’s disability claims within the regional offices. See the full committee’s membership and contact information.
  • The House Committee on Oversight & Government Reform is the watchdog agency for the U.S. government. It ensures tax dollars are spent appropriately and holds the federal government accountable to taxpayers. In July, the committee held a hearing to address the steps taken by the VA to eliminate the disability claims backlog. Click here to see the committee’s membership and contact information. For testimony and reports from the July hearing, click here.

Who can help disabled veterans navigate the claims system?

  • Founded in 1920, Disabled American Veterans has a membership of 1.2 million nationwide and advocates for more than 200,000 disabled veterans each year. The organization is headquartered in Kentucky, with national service offices in all 50 states to help veterans push their claims through the system. To find local chapters, click here. You can also contact the National Service Office nearest you.
  • Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America is the largest and oldest advocacy group for veterans of the war on terror. Membership is free, and more than 200,000 veterans of these wars have joined the organization.
  • The Wounded Warrior Project runs programs and events to help support disabled veterans returning from combat. It provides benefits assistance, social programs and training to help veterans adjust and re-enter their communities with ease and dignity. To contact the Wounded Warrior Project for help with your claim, click here.
  • Additionally, the VA offers this searchable database of accredited attorneys, claims agents and veterans service organizations representatives.

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Marie McIntosh is a news engagement specialist at The Center for Investigative Reporting, focusing on Junior Watchdogs, CIR's hub for information for kids. Marie works closely with the editorial team to find stories that affect kids, parents and teachers. Those stories cover nutrition, safety, education and more. Marie manages the production of video games and activity books and develops resources that engage kids and their families. She also supports CIR's events. Previously, she was the editorial assistant and social media manager for The Bay Citizen, which merged with CIR in 2012. Before that, Marie worked in textbook publishing in Boston.