Report finds issues with Indy-based regional VA office

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INDIANAPOLIS – In the midst of the ongoing national controversy involving the Department of Veterans Affairs, an Indianapolis-based regional VA office is now under scrutiny after being cited in a report from the department’s inspector general.

Complaints first surfaced last year that the office was not moving quickly enough to process allegations involving misuse of beneficiary funds.

The inspector general’s office also found that the Eastern Area Fiduciary Hub, based in downtown Indianapolis, was not processing its incoming mail in a timely manner. Investigators found more than 3,200 pieces of mail that had yet to be processed, potentially leading to delays for those receiving VA benefits.

In a written statement, regional office director Michael Stephens said: “It should be noted that (the inspector general’s office) conducted this review prior to or during completion of ongoing program improvements.  We agree with the OIG’s findings and have already implemented most of its recommendations.  We continue to place high priority and focus on enhancing the consistency and quality of services to all of our beneficiaries.”

The report was filed the same day the inspector general also released its initial report on the controversy involving VA hospitals in the Phoenix area, where allegations of manipulated wait times and delays have led to calls for the resignation of VA secretary Eric Shinseki.

“The process is government run, and it’s very inefficient,” said Sen. Dan Coats, R-Indiana, in an interview with FOX59 on Thursday morning.  “I want an outside investigation and I want recommendations about how to change, maybe the entire management team needs to be changed, not just the head guy.”

“They just want to make sure it’s done right and that the appointments are met and that the commitments that are made are actually followed,” said Sen. Joe Donnelly, D-IN, on Wednesday.

The situation has been a real struggle for Joyce Richardson, who says she’s experienced delays getting her medication. A couple of weeks ago, she went to a VA town hall meeting, but she says that didn’t help much either.

“I will do whatever steps that has to be taken to make sure that I get whatever’s got to be done as far as I’m concerned and pray that another veteran doesn’t have to go through this,” said Richardson.

“For every complaint we have, we have a rigorous system to follow up because we are concerned,” said Julie Webb, public affairs officer with the Roudebush VA Medical Center in Indianapolis.

Webb said her office had been working to get in touch with Richardson to fix the problem.