House Lawmaker Wants VA Benefits Chief to Resign

Allison Hickey, Under Secretary for Benefits for the Veteran Affairs Department.

Allison Hickey, Under Secretary for Benefits for the Veteran Affairs Department. Congressional Subcommittee on Oversight and Reform

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Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman says Allison Hickey is ill-equipped to manage the claims backlog.

This story was updated to include a comment from VA spokesman Josh Taylor.

Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, called on Allison Hickey, the Veterans Affairs Department’s undersecretary for benefits, to resign due to the growing backlog of disability claims.

Miller called for Hickey’s resignation yesterday in an interview with the Berkley, Calif.-based Center for Investigative Reporting. She is scheduled to testify today at a Committee hearing on disability claims processing that will examine employee training and workload management, among other things.

VA reported Monday that it has a backlog of 895,838 claims, 70 percent of which (629,585) have been in limbo for more than 125 days. Miller told the Center for Investigative Reporting that Hickey is not equipped to handle the problems. “I think she is overwhelmed, and I would call for a replacement,” he said.

In a post on the VA’s Vantage Point blog yesterday, Hickey conceded the claims backlog was “unacceptable,” but she also defended the department’s work to whittle down a backlog caused by a huge influx of Afghanistan and Iraq veterans filing claims, the expansion of benefits for Vietnam veterans exposed to the Agent Orange herbicide, and liberalized rules for post-traumatic stress disorder claims.

Asked to comment on Miller’s request that  Hickey resign, VA spokesman Josh Taylor said Hickey will continue to manage “VA’s aggressive plan to fix the backlog and ensure our veterans receive the timely, quality benefits they need and deserve.” The foundation of that plan is the department’s paperless processing system, which aims to eliminate the claims backlog by 2015.