VA watchdog uncovers errors in benefit payments to housebound veterans

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) watchdog revealed the agency withheld nearly $110 million in benefit payments from thousands of housebound veterans.

The VA’s Office of Inspector General released the new findings after reviewing the VA’s benefits program for disabled veterans who are unable to leave home without assistance due to injury or illness. As of March 2015, around 186,000 veterans were designated as housebound.

Payment errors affected the benefits of about 33,400 of housebound veterans. Others who received payments experienced delays ranging between five days and six years. The report found ineligible veterans received $44.3 million in benefits designated for housebound veterans.

The inspector general cited a case in which the VA underpaid a disabled veteran around $350 per month for nine years, totaling $36,100. The error was eventually corrected in October 2015. In another example, a temporarily housebound veteran continued receiving extra benefits for over four years after his recovery. The VA overpaid him about $154,000.

“Staff did not accurately address housebound benefits,” the watchdog report concluded. “As a result, some veterans did not receive benefits to which they were entitled, while taxpayer funds were wasted paying other veterans who did not meet the eligibility criteria.”

The IG report attributed the mistakes to poor training and management, as well as inadequate computer systems at the VA. Such shortcomings permitted the agency staff to “arbitrarily decide these claims.”

In a response to the report, the VA said it was working on fixing the problem and initiating several changes this year. Some steps the office plans to take include updating technology and launching an annual review of benefits being paid to housebound veterans. The VA also said more staff training would be required.

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