Gulf War Vets Home Page

False Dates on VA Claims

March 03, 2009
Albany Herald

In a newly released report, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs concluded that management at the New York City regional office had, for years, directed
employees to backdate veterans' benefit claims to appear as if they were being processed faster than they really were.

An investigation by the VA's Office of the Inspector General found that the widespread backdating of claims at the office in Manhattan was not repeated at
other offices around the country. But the report recommended safeguards to ensure the backdating wouldn't happen elsewhere.

Director of Veterans Affairs Joseph Collorafi who commuted to the office by train from his Guilderland home was one of six administrators placed on paid
leave last year after the backdating was discovered. However, local vets said they received since then paperwork stamped with Collorafi's signature.

An August review of a sample of 390 veterans claims at the New York office found 220, or 56 percent, were purposely altered. The inquiry also discovered more
than 700 pieces of unopened mail requiring immediate attention.

The New York office serves more than 800,000 veterans in 31 counties across the state, including the Capital Region.

The report is expected to be part of a U.S. House Committee on Veterans Affairs hearing on document mishandling scheduled for today in Washington, D.C.

The VA has maintained that the claims were altered only in an internal computer system and that they did not delay or cancel veterans' benefits because the
dates recorded on paperwork were the ones used for disbursement.

Investigators also looked at VA regional offices in Albuquerque, Boston, San Diego and Winston-Salem to determine if New York office's problems were
widespread. Of the almost 100,000 claims examined at those four offices, the VA found only 4.7 were inaccurate, according to the report.

It recommended establishing claim-receipt date accuracy goals that can be used to monitor the internal computer system.

A VA spokeswoman on Monday referred all comments to the report. VA officials would not discuss the disciplinary action of specific individuals.

The backdating issues in New York were discovered in the wake of a shredder scandal in which 41 of the nation's 57 VA regional offices were found to have
essential claims documents that were destroyed. Investigators have not uncovered evidence of shredding in the New York office.

In November, two veterans groups filed a lawsuit in District of Columbia federal court claiming the VA takes too long to process vets' disability claims. The
suit stated that the agency takes on average at least six months per claim and some extend up to a year.

The report is expected to be part of a hearing on document mishandling scheduled for today.