Current Performance Evaluation System Contributes to Benefit Delays, Union Says
(WASHINGTON) – The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) and its National Veterans Affairs Council (NVAC), which represent nearly 200,000 employees throughout the Department of Veterans Affairs, warned Congress that the current performance evaluation system used by the Veterans Benefits Administration, (VBA) is contributing to increased delays and inaccuracies in the processing of veterans benefits claims.
At a hearing held before the House of Representatives Committee on Veterans Affairs, Jimmy Sims, Jr. a VBA ratings veterans service representative and a member of AFGE Local 1738, testified that production standards for the processing of claims do not take into account the complexity of the claims process. The result is that far too many claims are processed inaccurately or are left incomplete.
The VBA examines employee’s production standards through a work credit system. “The work credit system is an essential building block for managing work and evaluating performance. However, this system must be based on valid empirical data developed through a scientific time-motion study,” said Sims. “VBA must, with no preconceptions, identify how much an employee can reasonably be expected to do with an acceptable level of accuracy and use that data to project the number of employees it needs to process its inventory.”
In the current system, the agency sets production standards that do not reflect the increasing sophistication of claimants, and the complexity of new medical claims, regulations and legal requirements. These standards are further complicated because the agency does not enforce uniform standards for Rating Veterans Service Representatives (RVSR) at all locations. The lack of uniformed RVSR standards allows individual managers to set their own production quotas, leading to arbitrary and unfair differences in workloads at different locations.
“The current work credit system has created a tremendously stressful, demoralizing, assembly-line work environment that is hurting VBA’s ability to retain experienced employees and is contributing to the continued attrition of new hires,” said Sims. “The ultimate harm falls upon the veterans who are deprived of a full, fair, and timely consideration of their claims, and a growing backlog.”
In order to compel VBA to develop an accurate work credit system, AFGE and the NVAC recommend that the House VA Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs mandate that VA conduct a reliable, scientific time-motion study of resources and skills required to process the current mix of complex claims. The time-motion study will allow VBA to develop production standards that reasonably reflect of how much an employee can be expected to perform with an acceptable level of accuracy. The VBA should allow for formalized input from the veterans service organizations and employee representatives.
The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) is the largest federal employee union, representing 600,000 workers in the federal government and the government of the District of Columbia.