In response to a congressional request, GAO evaluated the Department of Veterans Affairs' (VA) appeals process for disability compensation and pension decisions, to determine whether VA could improve the timeliness of its appeals process without detriment to quality.
Recommendations for Executive Action
|Department of Veterans Affairs||1. To improve the processing of veterans' appeals, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs should analyze the regional and BVA appeals process in detail to identify when and where delays occur and take steps to reduce the time for the appeals process.|
|Department of Veterans Affairs||2. To improve the processing of veterans' appeals, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs should improve the guidance and oversight of the regional offices. At a minimum, VA should: (1) develop time standards for processing appeals; (2) provide the regional offices more definitive criteria on how recent medical examinations need to be for cases sent to BVA and which staff should accept veterans' notices of disagreement; and (3) enforce regional office compliance with VA procedures.|
|Department of Veterans Affairs||3. To improve the processing of veterans' appeals, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs should designate a focal point with the responsibility to lead efforts to improve the management and timeliness of the appeals process. Initially, emphasis should be placed on resolving the problems related to: (1) redesigning the Veterans Appeals Records Management System; (2) the eligibility criteria for hearing loss; and (3) obtaining timely medical examinations from VA medical facilities.|
|Department of Veterans Affairs||4. To improve the processing of veterans' appeals, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs should modify data collection methods to account for all the time spent on appeals, thereby providing more complete data for management and Congress.|