The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is launching a “full review” of all VA.gov processing systems after discovering technical problems that impacted the disability claims of thousands of veterans.
VA Press Secretary Terrence Hayes this week said the VA uncovered two technological issues with VA.gov, resulting in delays for some veterans who tried to update their dependency status or file appeals online.
“We are taking immediate action to resolve these issues, prevent them from happening again in the future, and contact all those impacted by them,” Hayes said. “While these issues were limited to a small percentage of veterans, it’s unacceptable for even one veteran to be delayed due to technological issues – and we will make sure that no veteran’s benefits or appeals are negatively impacted by our errors.”
“We deeply apologize to all impacted veterans, and we will ensure that they get the benefits and appeals decisions that they deserve,” he added.
Since online filing became available in 2011, the VA discovered that an estimated 56,000 veterans who filed a request to update their dependency status online did not have their claims successfully processed by VA.gov.
This means that the VA was likely delayed in adding or removing a dependent from the veterans’ accounts, which could have increased or decreased their monthly benefit payments.
The agency said it began investigating this issue in August 2021, but “the full scope and urgency of the problem wasn’t understood across VA until August 2023.”
“We are implementing a fix to this problem to ensure that no further veterans are impacted, working to identify the exact number of impacted veterans, and taking steps to urgently review and process the delayed requests,” the VA said. “We will ensure that all underpaid veterans receive the full backdated benefits they deserve, and that no veterans are negatively impacted by our error.”
As for the appeals issue, the VA said that it has identified and fixed the bug that had prevented an estimated 900 veterans from appealing their decisions online since July 27. Specifically, the VA.gov website would not load when some veterans tried to access the “notice of disagreement” form.
The VA said this was due to a software bug that was accidentally introduced to the website during a planned update on July 27. The agency started investigating this issue on Aug. 31, and quickly implemented a fix on Sept. 1.
“We are now monitoring to ensure that no further veterans are impacted by it,” the VA said. “We are working urgently to identify the impacted veterans, contact them, and ensure that they are able to successfully submit their appeals – without any impact on their appeal date or their place in line.”
The agency said it will complete a “full review” of all VA.gov processing systems, to ensure all veterans can successfully submit applications, claims, or other forms.
It is also launching new technological measures to immediately flag any claims that are not processed correctly. The new measures would automatically trigger an internal investigation “when there is an unexpected change in volume of claims, appeals, or other submissions,” updating VA leadership immediately.
Finally, the VA said it will investigate the bug on the notice of disagreement form to determine why it was not caught during pre-publication testing, as well as invest in modernizing its claims processing infrastructure.
These technical issues come after the VA extended its PACT Act deadline last month after experiencing separate technical difficulties with VA.gov. Those issues have since been resolved, resulting from a last-minute increase in veterans filing for their PACT Act benefits.