Thursday, January 9, 2020

Unable to Provide Prompt Service

As a former Federal worker, I understand the bureaucratic methods and outdated processes sometimes followed by workers in Federal agencies.  I am now into year 2 of an attempt to see what monetary benefits my mom qualifies for as the spouse of  deceased WW II veteran.  My mom suffers from Alzheimer's and dementia.  After the death of my father on Thanksgiving morning in 2015, my mom began the quick journey into Alzheimer's and dementia.  Seemingly the grief and heartbreak of losing her lifetime companion, over 60 years of marriage, helped expedite the journey to Alzheimer's.

In October 2018 I initiated a claim on my mom's behalf to the Veterans Administration (VA) for whatever benefits she may have had to assist in paying homecare costs to a newly hired homecare provider.  My mother had some $11,000 in savings from my dad's life insurance policy and her monthly annuity checks to use as a source of income to pay for homecare.  Seeing that the homecare was expensive and that she could benefit from more homecare, the claim was an attempt to see what she qualified for.

The VA sent an initial response in May 2019, but had not considered the costs of homecare in calculating what my mom qualified for.  So I resubmitted the claim with evidence of the costs of homecare being an income reducer that was not considered initially.  The clock began to tick and I soon noticed that 5 months had elapsed with no answer.  When I called for an update on the status of the claim I kept on getting a response that it was under final review and given an expected date of completion.  That date would pass by and I would call and given another anticipated completion date.

I tired of the continued delay and contacted my Congresswoman, Susan Brooks out of Indiana, for assistance.  Suddenly the case was finished and a response sent to my mom's house that she did not qualify for assistance since the VA  assumed that I was paying the cost of her homecare from my personal account not my mom's.  I then submitted documentation to the VA to show them that I was a co owner of my mom's account as her Alzheimer's prevented her from carrying out the simple task of overseeing her finances.  Yes, I paid the homecare bills via my mom's account.

Now, you would think the VA would take the info and then expedite a final decision.  No.  Instead I was told that the info is seen as being a new claim and goes to the back of the line for consideration.  That means my 89 year old, Alzheimer's impacted mother will likely have to wait another 5 months for a decision.  That is 5 months that may not be promised to her.

Why would the VA stick to a process such as this and not close out a case with the latest information?  Only because they can and because there has not been enough outrage expressed at this archaic system of processing cases.  The VA like all federal agencies needs to continuously review operating procedures to see how those procedures result in providing the best, timely customer services available.  Delaying a decision on an 89 year old customer's claim  is a disservice.  It makes the system a simple paper pushing agency with robotic processes driving the system.

If this is how the VA treats the spouse of a deceased veteran, maybe all the complaints about the VA providing our veterans poor services has some merit.  The VA Claims centers can do better.  I've expressed my views in a personal letter to the Jainesville Center in Wisconsin.  I am sure I will receive a form letter response, because that is how federal agencies respond.  With un emotional responses designed to just answer the mail.

We are in the year 2020 and many of our agencies probably have processes that have not kept up with the times and technology.  It's time for the federal government to mandate reviews of customer related processes.  Stop requiring cases to go to the end of the line when they are already in progress.

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