Report: Veterans’ Benefits to Cost Extra $1 Billion

Benefits for U.S. military veterans will cost an extra $1.14 billion in the next five years without management improvements in an agency already criticized for health-care delays, according to an inspector general’s report.

The Department of Veterans Affairs inaccurately processed about one-third of the benefit claims during a two-month review and failed to make a final decision on claims for almost 6,900 veterans, according to testimony from the VA’s Office of Inspector General.

The Veterans Benefits Administration, an arm of the VA that oversees $73 billion in annual claims, “continues to have notable weaknesses in financial stewardship,” Linda Halliday, assistant inspector general, said in testimony released today in advance of a House Veterans Affairs committee hearing in Washington.

Former VA Secretary Eric Shinseki resigned in May following the disclosure that some VA hospitals kept phony records to hide delays in treating veterans. As many as 35 veterans on a secret list in Phoenix died while awaiting health care, acting VA Secretary Sloan Gibson has said. The agency has a $160 billion budget.

Improving veterans’ health care has become the top legislative priority for Americans, according to a Gallup poll released June 13 that asked respondents about nine issues, including a minimum wage increase and immigration policy. Almost nine of 10 Americans said it was extremely important or very important to improve health care for military veterans.