Thursday, February 12, 2009

Potential VA benefits chief has new ideas

Mon Feb 2, 2009 9:18 pm (PST)
Potential VA benefits chief has new ideas

By Rick Maze - Staff writer
Posted : Monday Feb 2, 2009 17:36:26 EST
A Harvard University researcher with some radical ideas about how to reduce
the backlog of veterans disability claims appears to be in line to head the
Veterans Benefits Administration.

Linda Blimes, a public policy lecturer and research at Harvard's Kennedy
School of Government, wants the Department of Veterans Affairs to operate
like the Internal Revenue Service - on an honor system that trusts veterans
claiming service-connected disabilities. All veterans claims would be
approved as soon as they are filed, with a random audit conducted to "weed
out and deter fraudulent claims," Blimes told the House Veterans' Affairs
Committee in testimony in 2008.

Ninety percent of veterans disability claims end up being paid after they
make it through the system, she said - proof, she said, that most veterans
are asking only for what they deserve.

Immediate payment of at least a minimum benefit would help to reduce the
average 180-day waiting time for initial benefits claims to be processed and
allow VA to redeploy the employees processing those claims to work on more
complicated appeals, she said.

Blimes also has talked of a vastly simplified disability rating system that
would have just four ratings instead of the current 10 for service-connected
disabilities and illnesses.

Blimes has not been formally announced as a nominee, but her name is being
circulated among lawmakers and congressional staff in what has become a
standard procedure to determine whether there is any strong opposition to
her taking the key post.

Her idea of a streamlined claims process has some prominent supporters,
among them Rep. Bob Filner, D-Calif., the House Veterans Affairs Committee
chairman who has talked of automatic claims approval as a way to quickly
eliminate the claims backlog.

Retired Rear Adm. Patrick Dunne, a holdover from the Bush administration,
has stayed on to run the VBA until a successor is named. He is not the only
VA executive who has stayed around; Dr. Michael Kussman also remains as VA's
undersecretary for health.

In addition to Blimes, another name being circulated is that of disabled
Iraq war veteran Tammy Duckworth, who could become VA's chief of
intergovernmental affairs. Duckworth, the Illinois director of veterans
affairs, is closely associated with President Barack Obama.

On Friday, the White House announced its intention to nominate W. Scott
Gould, a former Navy Reserve intelligence officer, to be VA deputy secretary
under retired Army Gen. Eric Shinseki, the former Army chief of staff
recently named to head VA.

Gould does not have experience running veterans programs, but he was
co-chairman of the review team that looked at VA for Obama and has
experience in trying to centralize and streamline organizations. Gould is
vice president for public sector strategy at IBM Global Business Services.

Gould is married to Michelle Flournoy, whom Obama has nominated to be
undersecretary of defense for policy.

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Dr Linda Blimes to be new Benefits Chief


It appears that Dr Blimes will be replacing Patrick Dunne as Under Secretary for benefits this could be the best news for disabled veterans in decades......

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