Thank you note for VBA workers

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.

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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.

 

0 thoughts on “Thank you note for VBA workers

  1. Craig, thanks for much for your kind words. People really just don’t understand the overwhelming numbers of claims each day and that it can take several hours just to rate ONE of them. When we put our hearts and souls into this job and just hear everyone complain all the time, it’s very demoralizing. It’s nice to know that someone appreciates the sacrifices we make. Many of us have small children at home and put in 12 hour days…by the time we get home we might get an hour with our child before sending him/her off to bed.

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  2. It was really nice to read your positive comments. I’m 24 years VBA and have seen a lot of changes. I also helped design VBMS-R at Compensation Service. Since you say you’re working to improve DBQs, it would be nice if the examiner’s could not put input contradictory information. For example, in the mental examination DBQ. They can click both “difficulty” and “inability” to have meaningful social and occupational relationships. They should be only able to pick one. Theses types of contradictions are rampant in the DBQs and while these exams are a great move forward, it’s time to improve them even more.

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  3. This is a very exciting thing to be recognized for what we do. It doesn’t matter what area of the VBA we work in, as long as we are putting the Veteran first. Being a fellow veteran, I have always done the previous sentences. Do on to others as you would have them do on to you. Not my quote but God’s.

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  4. Thank you for the kind words! I don’t know how many times I’ve tried to explain to someone in a bad place that we DO care and are trying our darndest to get what we need to fix that claim. I tell folks everywhere I go that I love MY Veterans and do everything in my power to assist them. We too many times get only negative press. Thanks again!!!

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  5. I too am a veteran and have worked for the VA for 30 years now. I see the frustration every single day from the employees who feel like the proverbial whipping post, especially with all furlough talk, cutbacks, etc. It’s just wonderful to get a positive word out through a large media source. I also understand the need to work all the back claims which MUST be done, but there are other issues that are being pushed aside that need to be done as well. (i.e. reinstatement of benefits, competency ratings, etc) I work with those issues and the ‘pat’ answer is they have to work the old claims first. That shouldn’t mean to stop everything else! We are ALL a team and need to process ALL the work. Thank you!

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  6. It is great when someone recognizes the hard work that VA employees are doing. Not only does the VA get the Veterans the benefits they deserve; but they also hire Veterans. I am a Veteran and I am working for VA. Thank you for all you have done for me.

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  7. I would like to say that I personally understand the anxieties of veterans,I myself went through the turmoils of waiting for my claim. So now that I work for the VA/VBA, I am sooo motivated and dedicated to make sure each and everyday I am helping as many veterans as possible. It’s a great feeling to hear comments from Craigslist and many others, we need that boost of acknowledgement from time to time instead of pointing the finger. Thanks Craig!!!!

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  8. Thank you sir for these kind words to the public. We work hard everyday to improve and assist Veterans. You are truely a God sent to the VA.

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  9. Thank you for the kind words. We work hard to continue to improve our services and technology to assist the Veterans. As a Veteran and work, it is great to see that someone is seeing the work and dedication we put in our work!

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  10. I think all the comments are good. I have personnally experience bullying in the work place, which can hurt morale for everyone including the bullies. I never would have thought such behavior is within the walls of the VA. But for those of you who has not experienced this 🙂 and congratulation. The veterans still need our help. This was encouraging for me. Thank you!

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      1. Very true, it’s not. However I worked for a supervisor who created such a hostile work environment that three her employees has nervous breakdowns, and I came close to having one myself. There are bullies and they are in supervisory postions. So, to hear an “Atta-boy” from Craig helps a great deal. Thank you Craig for your kind words.

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  11. As a USMC Veteran and an OIT employee within the VBA I would like to thank you for you post. It means a lot to a lot of people. Also my wife is addicted to your website.

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  12. Thank you so much for that! Although I dont process claims I do make contact daily with veterans and dependents and understand how important our jobs here @ VBA are! You put a smile on my face! Thanks for working with us to help us be more efficient and effective!

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  13. Thank you so much for all of YOUR help and for recognizing that the VBA is a mission that cannot catch up over night. There are a lot of dedicated and dilligent workers here, most Veterans themselves, that are fully motivated to helping better serve Veterans and their families. Thank you again for your awesome words regarding the tireless efforts put forth with in the Department of Veterans Affairs.

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  14. Thank you for giving us some recognition! It’s the system that is broken, not hte workers. A lot of us ARE vets ourselves, me included and love helping other veterans with their claims. We are under mandatory OT and it’s hard to balance our lives. This work is not hard, but it’s complicated at times and very much a mental drain. There are a lot of laws and regulations that we must follow and each case is so different it’s hard to measure how or why we can’t get some of the cases done fast enough to people who don’t understand what we face in our systems. There is a contast struggle to make our production goals but still give the veterans our very best work. There is nothing that I personally love more than paying veterans money that they deserve!

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  15. Thank you Craig. It’s wonderful to know that someone out there notices. We don’t always have the opportunity to speak candidly about the changes. I’m all in for any change that will benefit the Veteran. But it’ so encouraging to know that someone on the outside looking in cares enough to simply say thank you. Your comments will certainly help brighten my day.

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  16. Culture change…that’s a novel concept. At the Indy RO, the old timer AVSCM refuses to admit that her supervisors were promoted out of desperation. They wouldn’t be successful under the current VSR performance standards, and actually, they werent overachievers under the old standards. BUT, the AVSCM is from the era of the supervisors doing no wrong, so she personally covers their ineptness. Gen. Hickey…please fix this place!

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  17. Thank you Sir for shinning a positive light on the VBA Team. We all share a passion and devotion to our Veterans, and are dedicated to providing 1st Class sevice to as many American Hero’s as possible.

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  18. Thanks, Craig, for the recognition. As a retired Marine, I can honestly say that knowing I’m going to have a positive impact on a veteran or his family gives me a level of job satisfaction that is unmatched in the private sector. Semper Fi, I’m still serving.

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  19. Thanks Craig! We are working 50-60 hrs. a week to get the backlog down and to keep pace with Veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan. Suggestion #1 from the trenches….please move the section: “was the Veteran’s claims folder reviewed” to the very TOP, 1st. page, of ALL the DBQ forms. [If it was required that the STRs (service treatment records) be reviewed, and they were NOT, then the C-file and the DBQ have to go right back to the medical personnel that did the exam].
    Suggestion #2, have personnel at the various VAMCs in Compensation & Pension Services review the completed exams for required review of the service treatment records. If it was required that the STRs be reviewed, and they were NOT reviewed, C&P can send the file BACK to the medical staff who failed to follow instructions and review the claims file. This would save an great amount of time
    for the Regional Offices rating the claims, and speed up the entire claims process.

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  20. Thank You. We at the VA, rely almost entirely, on computer support. It’s great to see this government agency reaching out to trailblazers in the technical community whose ideas and innovations are proven successes. Continued R&D and cutting edge applications will pay dividends to those who shall have borne the battle. Our nations Veterans.

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  21. Craig, thanks for all the support. As a Veteran it is nice to hear someone praise the VBA and their workers. Thanks for the support.

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  22. If more positive media like this existed, I wouldn’t have to hide where I work on a daily basis. When I first started working for the VBA in 2009, I was proud of it. As a disabled veteran myself, I wanted to help other veterans. But the first few times I told someone where I worked, you’d think I just told them something horrible about myself by the reactions I received.

    We work hard every day in a stressful job in order to help the veteran. It’s very disheartening to be viewed as the enemy. Thank you Craig!

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  23. As a VBA affiliate and disabled veteran, it is nice to hear those kind words from Craig. The VBA and VSO work hard to take care of veteran’s. It takes a different breed of folks to jump into this type of career. It’s hard to explain but there is no college for this type of work. The majority of us are veterans just trying to help veteran’s and the non-veteran employees provide excellent service to our veteran’s. We have been given the firepower in the last year to progressively eliminate claims backlog and everyone is doing their part in implementing the process.

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  24. As a Call Center employee, I just want to say thank you! Everyone at the VA works very hard and really care about the Veterans and their families!! While this is not always an easy job, its a job we all love! There is no better satisfaction than helping the ones who have helped our Nation.

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  25. Thank you, Craig, for those kind words of encouragement. A beat horse doesn’t usually run as fast for the long haul. This administration and under the leadership of Sec. Shinseki has been the best thing to happen to the VA in a long time. Homeless vets have a comprehensive program of support, we are getting enough workers to actually do the job in a timely manner, we have switched from paper to paperless (almost!) and every single one of my colleagues are doing their best because they know they are serving veterans, the heros and heroines of our country who gave their lives 24/7 in the service of their country. We appreciate them and we appreciate the kind words occasionally!

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  26. Thank you very much for the postive words. Having worked for VA for almost 24 years, it’s refreshing to hear good news. Having family and friends who sacrificed so much for our country I’ve always felt pride in doing my part to assist veterans and their families. Again, thank you!

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  27. Thank you for notice how hard work we are doing for our veterans. My son is veterans. Thank you, Craig!

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  28. Craig,

    Thank you for the words of encouragement and kudos, they do mean alot. VBA employees are working in an ever changing environment, where there are constant regulatory and legal changes, we are constantly adjusting for fire. We do what me must for our Veterans! It is an Honor to serve our Veterans and I am honored to BE a Veteran.

    If there is ANY veteran out there that has been waiting over a year for there claim deteremination, I encourage them to call and ask what they can do to help, sometimes we are just waiting on Private Treatment Records and Private doctors are not REQUIRED to give them to us, but the Veteran can get them easily. Give the 1-800# a call and find out what the hold-up is!

    Thanks Craig, Hooah!

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  29. It’s a new VBA and we are not playing games. We are going to drop-kick this backlog once and for all. Semper-Fi to my fallen brothers. –Marine Vet, proud VBA employee.

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  30. Craig, thanks for all your efforts to help make our life easier. Your work is greatly appreciated by many on the Board. That is not to set aside your recognition of our work. As with many of our VBA employees, I too am a disabled Veteran. I have worked for VBA since October 1994, arriving onboard after completing my degree through the assistance and dedication rendered by our Voc Rehab people. Whether Veteran or non-Veteran, the people at VBA are here to help better the lives of our claimant Veterans (and fellow employee Veterans)from the 1st claim, to increased severity and even into the appeals process. Our goal is to assist the Veteran by providing a better quality of life, in accordance with the laws and regulations we are bound to adhere to, for any disability incurred due to service rendered for support of safety to our Nation.

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  31. It is truly wonderful,to see so many encourging words from people who operate in many major jobs, which impacts our veteran. But, it is just as important to be as helpful as we can to one another. A kind word to start the day, could impact your co-worker in a positive way. Let’s practice what we preach, by spreading the love, consideration and helpful spirit to one another in the work place. When we think about our veterans, think about our co-workers, and remember that helping the veterans is being kind to one-another in the work place.

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  32. Hi Craig! Thanks. To tell how great you are, I would only be repeating the comments above so I want to give you an ARMY HOOOOOAH!!!!!!!! I work at the Texas Veterans Commission (TVC) office, assisting Veterans at the Houston VA Regional building and I’ve seen the hard work and dedication of the VBA and staff…. The team and leadership is outstanding! Aggressive, Willing, and Able.

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  33. I work for VBA myself and our office has always been in the top 10 in the nation. Lately we have been brokering in work from stations that are less fortunate. We are a small station, but so far this year we have brokered in about 2,000 claims. We are currently working a minimum of 20 hours of overtime a month.

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  34. Thanks for you support. I’m in the Education division. I was hired on last year as a temp in the Atlanta Regional Office. They hired 40 veterans for the VRAP program and put us in a training room. We spent a whole year in that room processing the claims with the hope of an opportunity to become permanent employees. We had our gripes and complaints but there was a job that had to be done. We veterans of the United States and we know how to adapt. Unfortunately with the BIG changes within the Veterans Administration with a big focus on the compensation and pensions, the Atlanta regional office lost two of its big states from education which were sent to Muskogee. Now the 40 veterans including myself find ourselves with a contract not being renewed and out of a job. With no opportunity to apply for other positions within the regional office because they are only offered to the permanent employees. When they were hiring for the permanent employees, we had to compete with people off the street for a position we were already trained for and doing. Sorry to say that I will be unemployed in a few weeks from a job that I truly loved. Helping veterans like me.

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  35. With all the bad press lately, a word of encouragement is much appreciated. The vast majority of VBA employees really do care about our veterans and are trying our hardest to get these claims worked, despite the technological and bureaucratic obstacles. I wish the public understood how many of us are veterans or family members of veterans and want to serve them in the best way possible.

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  36. Great effort to find solutions and not excuses! I am the Clackamas County, Oregon American Legion Homeless Coordinator,
    Member of County Homeless Council and the Veterans Council ffor the County Commisioners. Also retired Marine (enlisted( and US Army (officer)
    Thank you and all the VA staff that truley have not forgotten our promise as a Nation to the REAL 1%, the men and women that serve in uniform.
    Every Day Is Veteran’s Day !
    Remember the VA Motto…partly stolen from the Marines “Semper Jumbee”….Always Flexbile !”
    Plus big huggs to my wonderful sister in law at the New York City Office..Team 7 “C’s”..lol Atalantic???

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  37. Thank you for the positive feedback. It’s refreshing to hear that someone outside the VA sees and understands what we are up against. We work hard, long hours and it’s never enough. We’ll get to where we need to be but it’s gonna be a big challenge to become familiar with new systems, processes, new way of processing the workload and still maintain our mandated quality and production standards and achieve our targets. We have a great group and we’ll get thru this….one day at a time.

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  38. Craig,
    Thank you for standing up for your fellow VA workers. As a Veteran (34 years), and someone that works with the homeless population, I understand the overwhelming task you all face. You are there to provide and protect the ‘true 1%- the men and women , past and present, in uniform”. To make whole.
    I know that it is not the fault of the hard working VA personnel, but I do believe that the American people are already spending the so called peace dividend, and they have forgotten that the checkbook is yet to be balanced. And our leaders in DC have lost sight of what is owed. Setting unrealistic goals without the resources, and then to have the nerve to blame the VA staff?
    And a big hug to my favorite sister in law, working at the NYC VA office. Go “7 C’s”! Atlantic??

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  39. Thank you. I am a Veteran and I love working for my fellow Veterans! Too bad good news stories don’t sell papers or airtime… All of us at the VBA and VHA try our best to help! Thank you for lifting up my spirits with your kind comments!

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  40. Thank you Craig.

    I do want to say, to all VBA employees who have said negative things about the Veterans Benefits Administration on this blog, and/or in other public forums or environments, you have the right to speak freely.

    However, I have something to say about it.

    How does the public view your posts or other conversations in public? Do they see the same VBA they have come to assume exists, or do they see a majority that cares about veterans?

    A veteran is going through something bad right now, as I write this post, and not just veterans, but millions spanning the globe. Do your posts, fellow employees of the VBA, excite morale and courage in the last spark of life in the dying veteran, or do they cause the life to fade by reason of discouragement? Do they cause someone to hold on to the the last bit of hope that an adjudicator’s signature is just around the corner?

    Do they see that you care more about them than your work environment?

    Veterans who are fellow employees: You fought valiantly for the Blood Red, Pure White, and Royal Blue. Won’t you keep the negative things in your private quarters, and take the same courage you had in Vietnam, Kuwait, Kosovo, Panama, Iraq, Afghanistan, or any other theatre, and apply it here to your adjudication?

    A preacher once said, “We are the sum total of all our decisions.”

    Not just ourselves, but also those around us.

    We are to be the SPARK, the MORALE, the flying flag of disability FREEDOM for those who have valiantly fought for the blood-stained flag that crests each of our regional offices.

    Are you that employee that fights for the good, on and off the clock? Or will you float downstream with the rest of the salmon?

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  41. I appreciate the kudos too. As a veterans widow and a VA employee its nice to hear some good instead of only bad things. We are working hard to get the backlog taken care oe.

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  42. As both a VA employee and as a disabled Veteran, who has sat through the over 1 year claims process (20 months to complete), accept my thanks for the kind words. It is easy to become frustrated and complacent with the system but the majority of VA employees I have dealt with on both sides of the line have been motivated to do what it takes to help Veterans. There are bad apples in every barrel, but these are the exception and not the rules. A large part of the problem has and always will be the system we are forced to work in and the red tape placed on us by legislation. It is nice to see that being addressed in some part recently. We have come a long way but we still have plenty of room to improve. Being realistic with our customers, communicating clearly the policy and procedures and diligent in our efforts helps. As a Veteran, I can honestly say, being “in the dark” is the most frustrating part of our claims process.

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  43. As a Veteran and a VBA employee, it feels so good to hear a positive comment. As a VBA employee, I often work late hours and sometimes on the weekends just to keep up with the high volume of work. Keep in mind I am not getting paid for working the extra hours, I just do this in order to keep up with the volume of work we get on a daily basis. These are the kind of things people don’t see or hear about in the media. I do what I do because I love my job and I love working for our Veterans. We appreciate your comment this is good for morale. Thanks

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  44. Craig,

    As a veteran and VBA employee, I understand first hand how difficult and arduous processing claims and responding to congressional offices can be. I appreciate your kind words. The next step would be for someone to work hand in hand with the Board of Veteran Appeals (BVA) and see what the hold up is.

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  45. to see the fruit trees when looking at the forest,you need a path.Thanks for looking past the forest.

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