Nov. 11, 2005 – A day before a federal holiday honoring the nationâ€™s soldiers, the United States military announced yesterday that it was scrapping a plan to review all post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) claims for potential fraud. The review, which came about after a Veterans Administration inspector general report indicated that fraud might be rampant within the system, would have examined about 72,000 current cases of VA disability benefits.
In a statement released yesterday morning, Veterans Affairs Secretary R. James Nicholson said that a just-completed inquiry into 2,100 PTSD cases revealed that the fraud allegations turned out to be incompetence on the part of the VA.
The planned full review, set to begin on the first of the year, came about after VA inspectors found improper or incomplete paperwork in 25 percent of the 2,100 reviewed cases, Navy Times reported. Military officials and legislators also intended the inquiry to focus on full disability claims, known as "individual unemployables" (IUs), the New York Times reported.
Disabled Veterans of America head Arthur H. Wilson noted Wednesday that the review would not have encompassed improperly denied claims. Wilson said veterans "shouldn't have to fight negative stereotypes that veterans suffering from PTSD and other mental conditions related to their military service are just â€˜gaming the systemâ€™." The investigation also would have diverted needed PTSD funds, Wilson added.
Recent reports project that as many as 20 to 30 percent of troops returning from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have or will develop some degree of PTSD. Last month, the Pentagon released a study showing that one in four Iraq war veterans return home with mental or physical illness, or some combination of both.
Vietnam Veterans of America immediately released a statement supporting the VA reversal, calling it a "good first step" in dealing with what it sees as a backlog of unacknowledged, unpaid disability claims.
In announcing the VAâ€™s decision to scrap the review, Nicholson said: "Not all combat wounds are caused by bullets and shrapnel," adding that the VA has a "commitment to ensure veterans with PTSD receive compassionate, world-class health care and appropriate disability compensation determinations."
Disability claims have been rising steadily, with PTSD cases making up the bulk of the increase. The VA will spend about $25 billion overall on compensation this year.