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    Subject Term: "Disabled veterans"

    1 publication with a total of 3 open recommendations including 1 priority recommendation
    Director: Bertoni, Daniel
    Phone: (202) 512-7215

    3 open recommendations
    including 1 priority recommendation
    Recommendation: To help ensure that Total Disability Individual Unemployability (TDIU) decisions are well supported and TDIU benefits are provided only to veterans whose service-connected disabilities prevent them from obtaining or retaining substantially gainful employment, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs should direct the Under Secretary for Benefits to update the TDIU guidance to clarify how rating specialists should determine unemployability when making TDIU benefit decisions. This updated guidance could clarify whether factors such as enrollment in school, education level, and prior work history should be used and if so, how to consider them; and whether or not to assign more weight to certain factors than others. Updating the guidance would also give VBA the opportunity to re-examine the applicability, if at all, of other factors it has identified as extraneous.

    Agency: Department of Veterans Affairs
    Status: Open

    Comments: In August of 2017, VA updated sections of its guidance on TDIU claim decisions. We reviewed VA's efforts to clarify many of the details involved in reviewing TDIU claims. However, the majority of the revisions clarified instructions for processing TDIU claims, not clarifications on making the decision to approve or deny claims in and of themselves. As such, our concerns, as noted in the GAO-15-464 report, remain including: reviewers being unclear as to if factors such as enrollment in school, educational history, or prior work history can be considered; how to assign weight to the different factors that are considered; and how to separate extraneous and allowable factors from one another. With such clarifying details lacking, the integrity of the decision making process for TDIU benefits remains at risk and benefits could be granted for one veteran and possibly denied for another veteran with similar circumstances and impairments.
    Recommendation: To help ensure that TDIU decisions are well supported and TDIU benefits are provided only to veterans whose service-connected disabilities prevent them from obtaining or retaining substantially gainful employment, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs should direct the Under Secretary for Benefits to verify the self-reported income provided by veterans (a) applying for TDIU benefits and (b) undergoing the annual eligibility review process by comparing such information against IRS earnings data, which VBA currently has access to for this purpose. VA could also explore options to obtain more timely earnings data from other sources to ensure that claimants are working within allowable eligibility limits

    Agency: Department of Veterans Affairs
    Status: Open
    Priority recommendation

    Comments: In September of 2017, VA halted its prior efforts for developing an upfront verification process by expanding the data sharing agreement with Social Security Administration (SSA), which enables VA to receive federal tax information via an encrypted electronic transmission through a secure portal. Upon further review, VA determined that the upfront verification process yields no information upon which denial of TDIU entitlement can be made immediately because prior earnings are not a basis for denial. VA plans to place greater effort and emphasis on the annual post-award audit for Veterans already receiving the TDIU benefit. VA is working to finalize guidance for a new annual post-award audit and ensure VA computer systems, employee training, and quality measurements are aligned. VA has set February 28, 2018 as the target completion date for these efforts and we will update this reccomendation once we have the opportunity to review the guidance.
    Recommendation: To help ensure that TDIU decisions are well supported and TDIU benefits are provided only to veterans whose service-connected disabilities prevent them from obtaining or retaining substantially gainful employment, in light of VA's agreement with the recommendations made by the Advisory Committee on Disability Compensation, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs should direct the Under Secretary for Benefits to develop a plan to study the complex TDIU policy questions on (1) whether age should be considered when deciding if veterans are unemployable and (2) whether it is possible to disallow TDIU benefits for veterans whose vocational assessment indicated they would be employable after rehabilitation.

    Agency: Department of Veterans Affairs
    Status: Open

    Comments: VA is studying its Total Disability Individual Unemployability (TDIU) benefit and plans to complete the study by September 30, 2017. In December 2015, VA began developing a study and VA officials reported that the scope of the study will include, but not be limited to, consideration of age in TDIU benefit decisions. As part of this effort a work group has been focusing on obtaining all data sets related to awarded TDIU benefits. As of February 2017, the work group continued to develop an inter-rater variability study to examine the variance in rating decisions involving both TDIU and service connection disability compensation, which could be incorporated in VA's larger review of TDIU eligibility standards. Changes to the TDIU eligibility standards could result in cost savings.