VA Opens Door to Disability Fraud

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from The Wall Street Journal,

Payouts soar as embattled department expands coverage and streamlines claims process, risking overpayments; act ‘like you have a screw loose’.

The Department of Veterans Affairs, fiercely criticized in recent years for slow and shoddy work, has reacted by expanding coverage and speeding up claims processing. Now critics say the reduced evidence requirements and briefer investigations can mean claims get padded, wasting funds and time better directed to more-qualified veterans, according to interviews with more than 40 current and former VA staffers, doctors, veterans and government agents.

“Much of what [the VA] is trying to do is built around quickly processing claims,” said Daniel Bertoni, a director at the U.S. Government Accountability Office, which investigates federal spending. “There’s always a danger to cut corners.”

Disability payments to veterans quadrupled since 2000 to $60 billion in 2015, while veterans on average were awarded benefits for more disabilities, rated at higher levels of severity, according to the VA.

The VA is absorbing a wave of more than five million veterans who have separated from the military since 2001, many of them fresh from conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq with needs that draw heavily on the agency’s Veterans Benefits Administration.

Their return comes as improved trauma care is saving the lives of injured soldiers who may not have survived previous wars, while a greater awareness of the physical and mental aftereffects has expanded the range of disabilities approved for benefits.

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