Top VA Benefits Official Overseeing Claims Backlog Resigns Amid Criticism Reports VA Attorney David Magann

Law Firm Newswire



Tampa, FL (Law Firm Newswire) December 22, 2015 – Allison Hickey, undersecretary for benefits at the Department of Veterans Affairs, resigned on Oct. 16 after the department’s internal watchdog discovered flaws in the oversight of promotions involving senior executives.

The VA Inspector General (IG) found that around 24 senior executives were promoted or given new positions within the department. However, many of their salary raises did not “consistently reflect changes in the positions’ scope of responsibility,” according to an IG statement. Hickey was facing a congressional inquiry into the accusations.

Hickey stepped down despite the department’s 88 percent drop in pending veterans’ benefits claims. The IG has released reports suggesting that the department is hasty in processing some claims. The office also questioned the reliability of reports indicating a shrinking backlog.

“The benefits department of the VA needs a leader who focuses on veterans rather than its bureaucrats. Reports of abuse within the department make any progress seem less credible. The claims backlog should not be reduced at the expense of accuracy in processing,” said David Magann, a Florida veterans attorney.

Officials have credited Hickey’s efforts to transition from paperwork to a digital system as contributing to reducing the backlog of disability claims at the VA. Although her VA colleagues lauded her leadership and efforts to modernize the agency, some veterans groups blamed her for management failings in the VA benefits arm and demanded her removal.

Since assuming the benefits undersecretary position in 2011, Hickey has overseen the department’s 20,000 workers and the distribution of benefits to over 12 million veterans and their families. The backlog in pending benefits claims has steadily declined each month from 611,000 in March 2013 to under 74,000 cases in October.

VA leaders emphasized that Hickey’s decision to resign was her own. It was reluctantly accepted by VA Secretary Robert McDonald. Her resignation follows those of former VA Secretary Eric Shinseki and the agency’s health undersecretary Dr. Robert Petzel after scandals regarding lengthy patient wait times in 2014.

Learn more at David W. Magann, P.A. Main Office: 156 West Robertson Street Brandon, FL 33511 Call: (813) 657-9175 Tampa Office: 18715 N Dale Mabry Hwy Lutz, FL 33548