(Alex Wong/Getty Images)

The Oakland Veterans Affairs office — responsible for all claims from Bakersfield to the Oregon border — is under fire after a recent inspector general report revealed alarming statistics: a nearly 40 percent error rate in claims inspected and a 33 percent higher wait time than average, making it the second slowest VA office in the country. We’ll discuss what’s causing the backlog and what this means for Bay Area vets.

Guests:
Aaron Glantz, staff reporter, The Bay Citizen, author of "The War Comes Home: Washington's Battle Against America's Veterans"
Barbara Lee, U.S. representative, California's 9th District
Peter Plante, Vietnam veteran who filed two claims with the Oakland VA
Lee Gutierrez, deputy secretary for veteran services, California Department of Veteran Affairs
Willie Clark, Veterans Affairs western region director, US Department of Veterans Affairs

  • Eric

    I missed the first 15 minutes of this discussion, so perhaps my question was addressed but just in case: has Mr. Glantz been able to gain any insights into the organizational culture of the Oakland VA office?  I get the impression that the VA suffers from a dysfunctional work culture, perhaps caused by poor worker morale, clueless supervisors, or maybe a workplace culture of “I don’t care…”

    • stp_sf

      Glantz and a caller (Allison from San Francisco) both depicted the organizational culture as a “sense of entitlement”; the bureaucracy is characterized by its DMV-esque customer service where they won’t get fired no matter how poor their service or lack of productivity.

  • shs

    Slightly different issue- but I’m wondering about the honorable discharge requirement for VA assistance. After 2 rounds in Iraq, my brother-on-law was discharged as a result of because he has PTSD.  He was shamed by his commanders in front of his whole unit for going to seek help for it, so ended up self-medicating with marijuana and was then kicked out. Now he is ineligible for help, lost his signing bonus, and medical coverage for his two children, wife, and himself. How many veterens are not even eligible for assistance due to the pressures and shame of admitting to PTSD? What can the VA do for them?

  • Karinaph10

    My father was in the VA system receiving his care.  As a WWII Veteran who served  three years in Europe he only began using the services in the last 10 years or so.  Great medical care, difficult to get through the system for benefits.  He passed away in April and for over a year I was trying to get benefits for home care.  He did have the hospice care via Medicare, but we needed to supplement with care six days per week about 4-6 hours per day.  This never reached any positive outcome, merely letters saying the Oakland office was processing his claim…..We asked our VA rep to help to expedite given his medical condition and immediate needs. 
    He ended up using what little resources he had and we helped too to pay for the home health care.  Our phone calls during the time we were waiting, went unanswered week after week.
    This should not have happened.  My father, as thousands of other brave Veterans gave his all for his country, his whole life.

  • klewis

    Why not give VA jobs and job training to veterans? These problems are not siloed with the Oakland office. Veterans have been reporting these problems for decades.

    A holistic change is needed and at the very least this will move beyond the culture to delay and deny; provide reliable and appropriately modified jobs to disabled vets, and help them to help each other with much greater empathy than they currently are met with.

  • TS

    I just heard one of the panel mention that the VA rations care depending on whether they determine if the injury or condition is service related.  Why do they care if it is service related? These men and women put their lives at risk for the service of their country and then when they need help they get their care “rationed”.  This is deplorable!  We need to care for our vets regardless of whether their needs are service related.

  • howardbarkan_DrPH

    I am a statistician and researcher . I had been working in this capacity at the Palo Alto VA (Cardiology) until I was downsized out of a position. Less than 1 week after the end of my employment I underwent an operation that has left me with limited  or no mobility since then (just starting to walk again). I applied for disability, only to be told that the VA only provided disability payments through its own system. I was no longer eligible for that payment because I was no longer VA staff (again, that was due to downsizing). I also tried to apply for unemployment. Application requires termination of employment papers. I’ve contacted the VA personnel office multiple times this year requesting those papers. My calls are not returned. I then called Congresswoman Lee’s office for assistance. We had a long, detailed call about the situation. After that, nothing. If this happens to someone who was staff, has graduate degrees and has been university faculty, I can only imagine the labyrinthine maze faceing the vets injured in combat. Again, my return for seven months of attempts is exactly $0.

  • Patti Rocha

    My partner is a Dessert Storm Vet. Our recent frustration with the VA system is with medical records. We live in Oakland and the closes VA hospitals are either Palo Alto or SF. Last year he was seen at the Palo Alto location, where he was treated after waiting 4 hours in the waiting room. Either this year he got sick again and we decided to go to the SF VA hospital. After walking into a hospital waiting room that was being reconstructed, which really looked horrible and in no condition to be serving ill patients, the person at the front desk ask a series of questions that one would assume would already be in the system, DOB, address, social security number, basic information the VA department knows. Why are these systems not linked together?? 
    We waiting 5 hours that day to be treated for an ear infection. 
    Our Veterans deserve better. They’ve given everything for this country, and yet we can’t honor them basic health care treatment? 

  • Liz

    The troubles at Oakland VA is the same all around the US. The veterans are treated as if they are all liars and trying to get something they don’t deserve. I am married to an Vietnam vet who is suffering with PTSD and other military related problems. It is very difficult for someone suffering with PTSD to handle the paperwork ,phone calls and other things required. My husband is 71 and we have been working through this for years.. it is hard on everyone.  Thankfully for now my husband is getting assistance, medical help and has a network of fellow Vietnam vets. I am Canadian and we live near the US Border,, so he is able to go to the Vietnam clinic near by. He had to deal with White River Junction,Vemont, which was a nightmare.  He did have great help from the Legion rep at Togus and from Susan Collins office! Thank you to all vets who served!!

  • jbspree

    where is the podcast?

  • Ammo

    Oakland is a cluster F just like DC was….. They have civilians working there who.don’t care and ably want that paycheck…..

  • Diana Coontz

    I am one of these Veterans who is tied up in this mess….
    I know all to well the pain and devastation caused by this horrible injustice!
    I have been driven to the point of Homelessness while waiting for my claim to adjudicate. I currently live in transitional housing on Treasure Island run by Swords to Plowshares. The system is very broken. No Veteran should ever have to suffer this way EVER!

  • DIANACOONTZ

    Shame on you Willie Clark! I watched you on May 21, 2012 DANCE AROUND THE PROBLEM, AND DODGE THE QUESTIONS!
    IF NOT FOR THE ACTION AND INQUIRY OF CONGRESSWOMEN BARBARA LEE & JACKIE SPEIER NOTHING WOULD EVER CHANGE!

  • Gary Kendall

    All Veterans and their family members can now take the VA to task for violations such as these.  There is a Veterans Civil Rights class action filed in the US District Court for Idaho, case no.: 1:12-00330-CV LMB.
    One can read about the case at http://www.veteranscourtcodes.com or at the Yahoo! Group vetsuesva where one can also download blank Joinder Notice forms should one wish to join these honorable Veterans and families in correcting the VA!

    Stand with your fellow Veterans and FIGHT for what is right!

    Thousands strong, we CAN force creation of a better VA system!

    Gary Kendall, VCR class action author, Veterans rights activist and advocate, gary001ok@yahoo.com

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