Government workers don’t get much respect these days, and are sometimes the targets of unfair abuse. That’s not right.
In particular, I’ve been working with people from the Department of Veterans Affairs, mostly with workers from Veterans Benefits Administration, VBA.
A lot of work should’ve been started the middle of the last decade, but only since 2009 has VBA been able to start catching up at an impressive rate. That means developing new systems, and means that currently, claims processors are putting in five months worth of mandatory overtime.
It’s not easy, requiring a lot of culture change, and moving to new systems while providing continuous veterans support via the old systems. This is difficult under the best of conditions, and worse when taking the verbal equivalent of friendly fire. That’s like trying to remodel the plane you’re flying on while your own side’s shooting at you.
However, that story isn’t being reported, so VBA workers get a lot of unfair crap, and that’s not right.
I bear witness to the good work these guys are doing, first hand.
In 2009 I participated in a VBA employees’ competition, where they suggested business process changes to expedite claims processing. In particular, I voted up what’s become Disability Benefits Questionnaires, DBQs. I’m now quietly working with VA folks to improve their use.
A nerd’s gotta do what a nerd’s gotta do, so, for the record, I bear witness to the good work VBA people are doing, and will continue to follow through.
My wife works at the VA. I know for a fact how hard she works, I just wish the rest of society had a clue.
Thank You David…most times our job is thankless. We are expected to produce miracles with lacking resources….As a Veteran and a VA employee, I can assure you more of us are working just as hard as your spouse…please spread the word as much as you can so others can have a clue.
Thank you Johnnie for your comment of June 28th regarding how we treat one another while working at VA. A kind word or even just a good morning will lift our spirits as we assist the veterans we serve. Thank you Craig for your positive comments. As a public contact employee at VA, I truly enjoy helping veterans who come in to the office; I feel satisfaction of my work when a veteran may come in to the interview angry and by the time the interview is completed, the veteran leaves happy. I always thank each veteran for their service to our country as the closing farewell.
My thanks as well for your kind words. And you’re right, the media is full of onesided criticisms of compensation services. Judging from media accounts, CO leadership does not stick up for VBA employees. They should stick up for us by taking the heat and acknowledging their own responsibility in mismanagement. That would be leadership. There are plenty of factors for our backlog and poor workmanship at VBA is only a small factor. Mostly, the backlog is a result of the fact that the agency is run by congress and other politicians and these folks keep their jobs by making promises they do not intend to keep. On the one hand, they make irresponsible promises (look at 38 CFR 3.309(e) and 3.317 for examples), and on the other hand, they do not fund adequate staffing for the claims process. A terrible claims backlog is the inevitable result. Instead of accepting responsibility, senior leadership has, without even an apology to its employees, mandated 20 hours overtime per month for consecutive months each of the last several years; that’s adding a half-week’s work per month! This June they took the outrageous step of cancelling vacation time for employees. Then CO wants us to celebrate how productive we are! Are we supposed to forget that the increased production is the result of the intrusion into employee’s personal lives? Also judging from media accounts, CO keeps promising reduction of the backlog through the the use of a new program called “VBMS.” That program will greatly facilitate the transfer of documents since they will now be digital rather than hard copy, but otherwise the program slows down claims processing. It remains to be seen whether this program will be beneficial, but judging from the media accounts CO is banking on it. Is it really a solution or just another false promise? Thanks for reading.
VA employees are a fellowship of some of the most caring individuals I have ever had the pleasure of working with. Learning to process VA claims really should be equivalent to earning an Associates degree, based on the difficulty and length of time it takes to become an expert. VA employees spend long hours at work, VOLUNTEERING to work overtime. The families of VA employees miss the presence of their spouses, parents, and grandparents while they are working all the extra hours to get our veterans paid. The sacrifice we make everyday, spending time away from our families, is worth it because we TRULY CARE about taking care of our veterans. Just this last Saturday, on my way in to work, the last comment I made before I walked out the door was, “I’m going to go pay some veterans.” Thank you, Craig, for the kind words and support. I do what I do because I care. I have the best job in the world, and I thank God every day that he made it possible for me to serve veterans in this capacity.
I am a veteran and am very appreciative of the work and commitment of all VBE employees. I have been very patient and have been waiting since 2011 for a decision on my disability appeal. I have spoken to someone at the VA regional office in Philadelphia and they have told me my claim was finally favorably rated on May 16, 2013 and it would be processed within four weeks. After waiting for such a long time and enduring my disabilities and having to rely on relatives and soup kitchens and shelters….I am very, very tired and exhausted physically and emotionally from this delay. I call the VA 800 number but they offer little or no help or information and seem to be somewhat annoyed when I call. If you ask for a supervisor they say they will call you back within 7 to 10 and they don’t return calls – this has happened several times. I have sent e-mail inqueries through the IRIS system that have never been answered. My e-benefits page never seems to reflect what is going on. Don’t get me wrong…I loved serving my country and would serve again if I could. I have no problem with defending the freedom of every American and love my country as much as anyone. I understand the VBA is swamped with claims and the workers are under appreciated and work long and hard in a difficult government system. My only hope is that my claim will one day be finalized. From what I have encountered it seems that there is no where to turn to for answers and this is what upsets me the most. Right now, I am in a very difficult situation and fell like my claim is in a black hole somewhere. Even my pro bono attorney has given up on the situation, saying that your claim was rated there is nothing more I can do to get the VA to finalize your claim.