PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Chris Stigall talked with Congressman Pat Meehan on Talk Radio 1210 WPHT about the status of the investigation into the Department of Veterans Affairs, including a report that over 84 boxes of mail had been returned to the office in Philadelphia after they failed to be delivered.
Meehan said management at the VA must stop trying to hide the problems it is facing.
“It’s one thing to look head-on into a situation in which the backlog is out of control, and frankly, the incoming documentation that’s required to settle these claims is overwhelming them. There could be a reality that you’ve got to face the fact that sometimes, more stuff is coming in than they’re prepared to appropriately handle,” he said.
Meehan described the heavy workload that employees at the VA face, but said the Department must ensure more safeguards be put in place to prevent claims from falling through the cracks.
“In some cases, particularly where there’re difficult cases or there’s information missing, it goes into the black hole. What we saw was there’s tremendous pressure on the workers there to move these documents, to move 10 or 12 cases in an hour, so the allegation was cherry-picking. What they would do was take the pile of work that day and go through and find the easiest ones and work through them. So, if one presented a problem, that was the one that got put in to the ‘I’ll get to it later’ bin, and the question was, did anybody ever get to it? It’s a combination of, some good people are doing hard work trying to get things done, but at some point, who is responsible for following up and making sure that those letters that weren’t being responded to were being followed up? Because they could directly impact somebody’s benefits,” Meehan stated.
Meehan says he continues to follow up on problems he is aware of but is not convinced that everything is being addressed adequately.
“I think there are some people that are trying, but the thing is so complex and it takes a long time to really understand what it is they are telling you…It takes quite a bit of time to even understand where you are, so you have to focus on asking very deliberate and specific questions. That was the  boxes that [Congressman] Mike Fitzpatrick and I looked at; we said we want to know what happened to them, claims from 2008 to 2011. The Director tells me that in February in 2012, they sent a special detail up and they got all of those, they went through them, determined whether they were insignificant mail or needed to be downloaded into the system and clean that backlog up of those boxes. But as old boxes are taken care of, new boxes are showing up, because it’s an ongoing problem,” he said.