VA Forfeiture Decisions Highlight the Need To Strengthen the Procedural Protections Afforded Filipino Veterans Residing in the Philippines

HRD-82-46: Published: Mar 15, 1982. Publicly Released: Mar 15, 1982.

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In response to a congressional request, GAO reviewed a 5-year sample of Veterans Administration (VA) forfeiture decisions to determine whether Filipino veterans and their survivors were afforded procedural due process.

GAO found that virtually all VA forfeitures were based on cases from the Philippines and that questionable procedures and practices sometimes resulted in unfair treatment of Filipino veterans. In many cases: (1) forfeiture decisions were not timely, taking in some cases more than 2 years after payments were stopped; (2) letters offering personnel hearings contained statements that could discourage requests for forfeiture hearings; (3) insurance benefits, which are not gratuitous benefits, were withheld to offset debts without prior notification of such offsets; and (4) gratuitous benefits were suspended quickly without providing prior notification and an opportunity to respond to the charge leading to forfeiture. The timeliness of forfeiture decisions significantly improved over the 5-year period, and VA has revised some procedures and is in the process of revising others which should improve the treatment of Filipino veterans and their survivors residing in the Philippines. However, problems still exist, and VA needs to do more to improve the nature and extent to which Filipino veterans and their survivors are extended fundamental fairness.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Administrator of Veterans Affairs should instruct the Chief Benefits Director to revise procedures to eliminate the provision permitting certain forfeiture decisions without providing case file evidence to the Compensation and Pension Service for an independent review.

    Agency Affected: Veterans Administration

  2. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: While the Chief Benefits Director was not instructed to implement the intended action, BVA has implemented a similar procedure thereby affording the recommended procedures projection to those who appeal their cases to BVA. The Administrator removed the qualifying statement on correspondence offering BVA hearings, thereby removing a potential inhibition.

    Recommendation: The Administrator of Veterans Affairs should instruct the Chief Benefits Director to revise procedures to include documenting the rationale for dismissing conflicting testimonial evidence not in support of a Manila Regional Office forfeiture recommendation.

    Agency Affected: Veterans Administration

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Administrator of Veterans Affairs should instruct the Chief Benefits Director to determine, in consultation with the VA General Counsel, the need for and fundamental fairness of qualifying correspondence only to Filipino veterans and their survivors residing in the Philippines giving consideration to Board of Veterans Appeals objections to the qualifying statement used in notifying an individual of appellate hearing rights.

    Agency Affected: Veterans Administration

  4. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Administrator of Veterans Affairs should instruct the Chief Benefits Director to determine, in consultation with the VA General Counsel, the need for and fundamental fairness of qualifying correspondence only to Filipino veterans and their survivors residing in the Philippines giving consideration to the equity in using any qualifying statements pertaining to forfeiture hearing rights.

    Agency Affected: Veterans Administration

 

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