U.S. Rep Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, chairman of the Domestic Policy Subcommittee of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, is calling for the Defense Finance and Accounting Service to keep its promise to recalculate payments to thousands of disabled retirees eligible for Combat Related Special Compensation (CRSC) or Concurrent Retired and Disability Pay (CRDP).
Congressman Dennis Kucinich D-OH, chairman of the Domestic Policy Subcommittee of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, is calling for the Defense Finance and Accounting Service to keep its promise to recalculate payments to thousands of disabled retirees eligible for Combat Related Special Compensation (CRSC) or Concurrent Retired and Disability Pay (CRDP).
In a letter to DFAS Director Theresa McKay, sent after the subcommittee’s staff analyzed an internal audit by DFAS of the Department of Veterans Affairs Retro program and found a large number of payments were inaccurate, Kucinich wrote, “On the basis of your audit’s preliminary findings, my staff calculates that large numbers of veterans fell victim to Lockheed’s inaccurate computations: Between 1,782 and 1,985 severely disabled veterans were wrongly denied a VA Retro payment, while as many as 2,514 such veterans received inaccurate payments in excess of $2,500.”
According to DFAS, approximately 10 percent of the claims have been reexamined and the review will continue into early next year.
In January 2004, retired, disabled veterans became eligible for CRDP if they served at least 20 years on active duty and received at least 50 percent disability compensation from the VA
CRSC, established in 2003, is available to retirees awarded a disability rating of at least 60 percent, as long as it was combat-related. Retirees awarded a Purple Heart and receiving at least 10 percent compensation are also eligible. In 2004, CRSC eligibility was lowered to veterans with a 10 percent disability rating.
Further, wrote Kucinich, “Over the course of its cost-plus contract with the government, Lockheed miscomputed and mishandled the VA Retro pay awards of the equivalent of a whole combat brigade.”
During the course of the subcommittee’s review, it found that 8,763 veterans died before receiving their payments; DFAS suspended established government procedures designed to verify accuracy of payments to speed up payments and clear a backlog of cases; closed down audits by the Continuing Government Activity, instead, relying on Lockheed’s quality assurance. More than 60,000 payments to veterans were issued after a suspension of quality control measures went into effect on March 1, 2008.
The subcommittee also found more than 28,000 veterans had been denied retroactive pay as a result of decisions made by Lockheed without any quality assurance or government review.
In his letter to McKay, Kucinich also noted that DFAS’ and Lockheed’s testimony, it was confirmed that “unchecked denials of eligibility were routinely made by individuals with as little as six weeks training.”
The problems created by DFAS and Lockheed could likely have been avoided has Congress enacted concurrent receipt for all retirees, rather than try to save a buck by creating a two-tiered solution.
“We’ve always wanted full and fair concurrent receipt,” said Tom Wilborn, a spokesman for the Disabled American Veterans. “We warned Congress repeatedly that enacting a hodgepodge of concurrent receipt would only be a quagmire for veterans.
“It [concurrent receipt] is still one of our legislative issues,” he added. “When Congress starts in earnest in January, we’re going to be talking about it.”
CRSC, Wilborn noted, is now of the most complex pieces of legislation ever passed by Congress, and few people understand it.
Part of the blame for this escapade can be placed squarely on the Department of Defense, which did not hold a single formal meeting until nearly two years after CSRC and CRPD was enacted. It also took more than five-and-a-half years to review the claims of 133,057 veterans who became eligible after lawmakers changed the law.
Lockheed Martin, well known for its efforts in aeronautics and space systems, was also awarded a no-bid, cost plus contract by DFAS. Adding insult to injury, DFAS could not assess penalties for poor performance because it wasn’t permitted in the contract.
I’ve often said veterans aren’t looking for freebies from Uncle Sam. Rather, they’re looking for what they’ve earned by virtue of lacing up a pair of combat boots. The Department of Defense largely does a fine job caring for troops while they serve proudly in uniform. But washing their hands of veterans with slipshod policies is a disgrace. Our veterans deserve better.
Bruce Coulter is the editor of the Burlington Union and a retired, disabled veteran. He may be reached at 978-371-5775, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.