10-Foot Stack of Mail Sits Unopened at VA
Last updated 5/31/2022 at 3:06pm | View PDF
Imagine a pile of mail heaped 10 feet high sitting unopened for 10 months. That's what was found in the basement of a rented Department of Veterans Affairs facility in Atlanta. When investigated, the stack was determined to contain 17,660 pieces of mail that included claims, correspondence from veterans, 10,020 medical records and $207,000 in checks, some of which had already expired.
The problems began when a health care arm of the VA wanted to commandeer the basement space being used by a VA payments group. They came to a verbal agreement that the new group would take over dealing with the mail if the payment group left. A handshake later, it was done. Except nobody asked the new group if they even knew how to process correspondence, records and checks. And, apparently, nobody did.
So, although the new people took a stab at dealing with the mail, for the most part the pile sat and grew as more mail came in. And sat and grew some more. The new group asked the old group for help. The old group said no. Enterprising souls in the new group sent off some of the mail to other facilities -- 14 boxes to one facility alone -- which sent it right back. They tried again, sending another 13 boxes.
What happens when payment requests are ignored? Veterans can't go to that outside provider and treatment is delayed or denied. Appeals can be denied if not received in time. Veterans with bad test results may not be notified.
Within a short period of time after the report came out, the VA acted and got the backlog cleared up.
The worrisome part of this is that with a coming consolidation of 82 claims processing groups at the VA, this can happen again if steps aren't taken to ensure that mail is handled correctly.
To learn more, go to http://www.va.gov and search for "unopened mail backlog."
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