Officials from the Department of Veterans Affairs detailed Tuesday during a hearing how the VA failed to properly process over 56,000 requests from veterans to add or remove dependents, some dating back to 2011, due to technical errors with its website and IT systems.
During a recent investigation into the issue, a VA IT team found that more than 56,000 veterans who submitted a request to update their dependents — mostly adding or removing spouses or children — “did not have those claims successfully processed by VA.gov,” Press Secretary Terrence Hayes said in a statement earlier this month.
The VA stated that the IT errors and website issues have been occurring for some veterans as far back as 2011 and could affect their monthly benefit payments.
Rep. Keith Self, R-Texas, expressed frustrations with top VA IT officials regarding the dependent claims issue during a House Committee on Veteran’s Affairs meant to examine the VA.gov website.
“We discovered that in August of 2021, there were a number of dependency claims that were being [unfairly] rejected from the system and so we worked with IT to investigate what that issue was,” Raymond Tellez, VA’s acting assistant deputy undersecretary for automated benefits delivery, said in response to Self’s questioning during the hearing.
“And it wasn’t until January 2023 when we discovered there was a different problem, a bigger problem when we got feedback from our call centers from veterans who were having challenges with dependency who weren’t on the list that we had,” Tellez said.
Rep. Self questioned Tellez and VA CIO Kurt DelBene regarding the VA website’s quality assurance and quality checks given that a decade went by between 2011 and 2021 when the dependency claims issue went undetected and unresolved.
The VA only discovered the full extent of the error in 2023 while looking into a technical problem that caused issues for roughly 900 veterans trying to file online appeals of their PACT Act of 2022 claims.
According to the VA, more than 574,000 veterans filed a dependent status update through VA.gov and other official portals online since 2011, and of those, the agency is investigating 56,000 to make sure appropriate claims adjustments were made.
Some veterans may be owed backdated benefits due to the dependent claims issue, while others may have been overpaid. Nevertheless, VA officials said during the hearing that they would not request reimbursement from veterans who have received excess benefits.