November 10, 2005
Contact: Jeff Schrade (202)224-9093
(Washington, DC) VA Secretary Jim Nicholson received praise today from a top Senate leader for the VA's decision to not initiate a review of 72,000 claims for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
"I applaud the Secretary and his staff at the VA for this decision, which was made after a careful review of the facts" said Sen. Larry Craig, Chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs.
Earlier this year the VA's Inspector General reported on its examination of 2,100 randomly selected files of veterans with disability ratings for PTSD. The IG cited insufficient documentation in 25 percent of those files and a dramatic increase in veterans filing for disability compensation for post-traumatic stress disorder since 1999.
The VA has now reviewed all 2,100 files and, according to VA officials, the problems appear to be confined to clerical errors, such as missing documents, and not fraud.
"It's important that we look at hard issues from time to time, to ensure that veterans are getting their earned compensation and to balance that with protections for taxpayers who foot the bill," Craig said.
"While no veteran should receive benefits that cannot be supported by evidence from their service, it's sensible to stop the review process, even as the VA rachets up the training of its personnel so that we don't see a 25 percent clerical error problem again."
In a statement released to the media, VA Secretary Jim Nicholson said that the agency will improve its training for VA personnel who handle disability claims and toughen administrative oversight to ensure that errors are avoided.
"Not all combat wounds are caused by bullets and shrapnel," Nicholson added. "We have a commitment to ensure veterans with PTSD receive compassionate, world-class health care and appropriate disability compensation determinations."