The Department of Veterans Affairs will eliminate in-house pension and compensation exam programs and will instead begin to outsource them. The exams are critical in determining whether or not a veteran is eligible for benefits.
The implication of these changes could result in delayed exams, as it may become more difficult for the Department of VA to effectively oversee the work they’re contracting.
The change follows the VA’s attempt to work through a backlog of exam requests. Since April 2020, the department suspended exams due to the rise in Covid-19 cases. As time went on, the backlog grew to a staggering 350,000 requests.
In-person exams were resumed in select locations across the US on May 28th. This opened up to all locations in the middle of October. The renewal of exams sent notifications to those waiting for an exam that a “contract medical examiner” would be responsible for scheduling and conducting the exam.
During a compensation and pension exam, healthcare providers examine veterans to determine whether their conditions are related to their service in the military. The VA gathers the information during the exam to then decide on the veteran’s claim. Each exam has a rating system, where it scales how much monthly compensation a veteran can receive.
Over the past four years, the VA has increased its use of contractors for performing exams. In 2016 alone, over $6.8 billion was spent on contracts, and since, over 60% of all exams were being performed by a contractor.
In 2018, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) reported that the Department of Veteran Affairs didn’t track the timeliness and quality standard of the tests performed by contractors. The VA has yet to implement any measures to ensure exams are being done to the fullest extent.
Fears grow over whether the VA will have the capability to oversee the work done by the contractors.