Alaska VA office cited for 29% error rate in federal report

Federal inspectors have given the Anchorage Veterans Administration Regional Office a poor review for its handling of Alaska veterans' disability claims, citing lack of quality control and a 29 percent error rate that in some cases resulted in veterans being underpaid, facing unnecessary delays in obtaining benefits, or being initially denied services they might be entitled to.

Inspectors from the VA Office of Inspector General said the Anchorage office failed to meet requirements in 13 of 14 areas covered in an inspection last year.

The mistakes affect veterans claiming military-service-connected disabilities for conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder, diabetes and traumatic brain injury.

Supervisors of the Anchorage office acknowledge that the problems in Alaska go beyond general stress on the veterans' benefit system that is occurring nationally.

But they say they believe they are well on the way toward fixing them.

Alaska had the highest number of veterans per capita of any state as of the last census, at nearly 18 percent of the population.

The VA Benefits Administration decides whether a veteran qualifies for monthly compensation, often several hundred dollars per month, for ongoing disabilities that first occurred or were aggravated during military service. The system nationwide has been overwhelmed in recent years with an influx of claims from veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan, plus aging veterans from earlier conflicts such as Vietnam. CBS reported on "60 Minutes" this month that 1 million veterans are waiting for action on their disability claims.

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