This article is being done in two distinct parts, illustrating how the attitudes of the VBA are in direct conflict firstly with their "Vision Statement" and secondly with their "Core Values". I believe this will show the fallacy of their ways. The source is taken directly from the Department of Veterans Affairs home page "VBA" link. The author uses some quotation marks, fonts and formatting for clarification and ease of reading, but the words attributed to the VBA come directly from their website. The thoughts expressed below are the thoughts of the author, based on his personal experience and other's comments about the VBA.
The VBA Mission:
"The mission of the Veterans Benefits Administration, in partnership with the Veterans Health Administration and the National Cemetery Administration, is to provide benefits and services to the veterans and their families in a responsive, timely and compassionate manner in recognition of their service to the Nation."
Omar Bradley - 1947
"Our vision is that the veterans whom we serve will feel that our nation has kept its commitment to them; employees will feel that they are both recognized for their contribution and are part of something larger than themselves; and taxpayers will feel that we've met the responsibilities they've entrusted to us. Courage, honesty, trust, respect, open communication, and accountability will be reflected in our day to day behavior."
VBA CORE VALUES:
VISION: Several points should be considered here: 1) While WE have kept our part of the bargain in serving our great nation as members of the military, both in peace and war; some of us were told after returning from South East Asia, and South West Asia that our problems were all in our heads and not of a physical nature (i.e., Agent Orange and Gulf War Syndrome for example) our nation has NOT kept its commitment to us. 2) Some employees of the VBA feel all we want is a free ride on the train of our government; some feel that we are a hindrance upon their lives. 3) Taxpayers feel at times that veterans do not need special programs, nor do we need the compensation that many of us ask for. Now, when a war comes along, they feel they can do anything to make a veteran feel good. HOWEVER, if the war becomes protracted, or a clear cut enemy is not visible, then they begin to lose that feeling. 4) Courage, honest, trust, respect, open communication, and accountability? Now, that in itself is a joke of the largest magnitude. I have yet to find more than FIVE that work in the VBA to hold any of those behaviors. They lack the will and backbone to stand up and accurately announce on behalf of our veterans.
CORE VALUES: Italics are a short version of each point above. Much can be said here except it would be repeated from above. Here I will touch on those I feel are important to us (such as veterans, families, and surviving family members).
1) All our efforts are directed toward meeting their needs: Oh really now? How often have you walked in just to ask a question and the answer was abrupt and there was a note of disrespect?
2) Communicating: When was the last time you received a letter from your local VBA office, say within two weeks of submitting a claim of any sort? How about those that read in part "We are processing your claim" letters? Or those letters you get with the WRONG SSN but the right NAME? This is identified in the first link (Butch and Carmen's Veterans Page) to my home page. This is an "accurate manner"? How many times did your letters of denial really answer your questions clearly, in an understandable manner?
3) Openly share concerns and views and listen to those of veterans: How many times did you go to the local VBA office and they hear (not listen) to what you are saying? They only "listen" to what they want to; but they "hear" the rest. If they want to make a change that would be conducive to improving the whole situation AND improve the climate within the VBA, then put veterans on the review boards. Put those veterans who are disabled on the review boards as they can understand what the veteran is asking for.
4) We value understandable business processes: Any business is out to SAVE and MAKE money. So, consequently, if I understand this so called "value" the VBA is out to try and SAVE money (they can't make a profit - or can they?) Now, the way I understand the VA fiscal situation is not to make a sizable profit, rather they should give the money to the veterans who need it.
5) We foster an environment that promotes personal and corporate initiative risk-taking and teamwork: Now, the way I read this is that the work environment for VBA employees is that if they are risk-takers, then why do more and more veterans have to take their cases to a higher level for review and appeal for cases denied? Why do some cases have to go to Courts of Veterans Appeals? Why wont one review board member stand up and fight for the veteran. What happened to the thought of "When in doubt, the benefit goes to the Veteran? Or do they all play the game "To get along you need to go-along"?
6) We are open to change and flexible in our attitudes: Oh really now! Why were no changes to the issues of high denied cases from 1992 to 2000? Why the high appeal rate that had to go in front of our veteran legal system? The answer to this is the same as above. NO ONE wanted to change the process or to rock the boat just so they could keep their jobs. This issue extends upwards to the Secretary of Veterans Affairs and the current Secretary IS working to resolve this major problem.
7) Respect, integrity, trust and fairness are hallmarks of our interactions: Again, Oh really now! How can anyone give respect to a business (as stated in number 4) that is not fair to those that need immediate responses to claims and has no real integrity toward veterans and surviving spouses. Who can you trust when the current system is not fair and does not keep up with the new advances in the 21st century? Instead they use the same system they used in the 1970s - 1990s.
8) We value a culture where everyone is involved, accountable, respected and appreciated: Whom are they referring to? Employees that are "involved", "accountable" "respected" and "appreciated" are the same ones that cause claims to be backlogged, documents misfiled, and letters are sent to veterans telling them they need a certain piece of paperwork and that same piece of paper is ON TOP OF THE CLAIM FOLDER. And they say they want to be respected? These same employees IMPLY that the medical problems most of us face are in our minds. And they want to be respected? Who is accountable for the back log of initial claims because of all the denied claims that are appealed each and every time? If you can come up with a good valuable answer tell me.
9) We will perform at the highest level of competence, always, and take pride in accomplishment: I have spent some time on this one, and all I can come up with in response to this CORE is nothing. It has been said and done above.
BUT I do have one last closing statement, and I want everyone to seriously take my words and read it carefully. If you agree fine, if you do not agree, that is fine too, because we/our veterans have given us this right to think differently than our neighbor.
The actions by the VA/VBA to day, do not reflect what General Bradley said in 1947 (with the exception of a few "top notch" employees who bend over backwards to help.) The VA does not bend the rules; rather they look at the book (hard telling how old it is) and see that if a rule says 2 centimeters to 4 centimeters and the actual reading is 1.5, they MAY NOT approve the condition, etc., etc.
It is unfortunate but we (veterans) need to keep up the fight to not give in to their actions in denying case after case when we need it most. Some cases go on into "double digit" years because the veteran could not find a hospital statement in a combat zone. Other veterans give up because of hopeless bureaucratic SNAFUs of those that are indifferent on our claims. Others are put in jail for a crime and if in jail more then six months they lose their compensation from the VA. Others get divorced; again the VA wins because they don't have to pay any additional money because of a spouse. Others die and if the surviving spouse has no knowledge of benefits, the VA does not have to pay them. In closing to those that have read this, pass it on. Let everyone know that we, as veterans, are not looking for a free ride on the train of the government. All we want is what is due us, now not 10, 15, 20 years from the submission of a claim.
Thanks for taking the time to look at this and passing it on. MSgt Merrill A. "Butch" Vaughan, USAF (Ret)