WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Senator Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) issued the following statement about the Department of Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General's report regarding VA Regional Office mismanagement and backlog of cases in Southeast Pennsylvania.
"This report indicates that the Philly VA Regional Office, one of the largest veterans claims offices in the nation, was altering and hiding documents that resulted in longer waits for veterans' claims. It highlights the toxic culture of mismanagement within the office, where staff were pressured to alter long-overdue claim dates to stay in compliance and were afraid to come forward to report problems.
"The backlog of veterans' disabilities claims in our state and nationwide is a disgrace. But we may not know truly how far behind the VA is in processing these cases because it appears management was covering up the problem. Moreover, management may not have followed standard or basic VA guidelines for audits, or in some cases, veterans' privacy. It is my sincere hope that the Veterans Benefits Administration quickly implements the Inspector General's 35 recommendations while an internal review board continues its ongoing investigation.
"We must remain vigilant to ensure this does not happen again, especially in light of the Philadelphia VA Regional Office's claims of recent improvement among completed cases.
"The report released today has to be a call to action to stop the unacceptable and heartbreaking problem of our veterans being denied their benefits because of bureaucratic inertia, red tape, and outright deceit. This is simply outrageous.
"I will continue working with Senator Casey and other members of the bipartisan Senate VA Backlog Working Group to help tackle this critical and longstanding issue. In spite of the additional funding and reforms we passed last Congress, more efforts are clearly needed at the VA to resolve this problem and eliminate the claims backlog so that our veterans have the help they need. It is also important that those federal employees - paid by the taxpayers - who rigged the system are held accountable."