« PreviousContinue »
workload on field stations by approximately 10 percent. Responsiveness of the system to produce reports has increased both in terms of time and accuracy.
Master Index File
The VA Master Index File consisted of over 30 million 3x5-inch cards, filed alphabetically, containing a veteran's name, VA claim number, and other information. It had been used extensively since 1925 to identify veterans' claims for benefits filed with the VA.
In Fiscal Year 1972 the Index File was replaced by the automated Beneficiary Identification and Records Locator System (BIRLS). At the time of conversion to BIRLS, the Index file was retained as a backup file and for use in updating and purifying the information in the automated system. The final verification project was completed in Fiscal Year 1976, and the cards were destroyed. A microfilm of the file is maintained in Washington, D.C. and Austin, Texas.
Medicine and Surgery training programs on methods of averting injury in the handling of patients.
The audiovisuals activity maintains a centralized motion picture film library, consisting of 673 titles and 3,148 prints for use in medical and scientific research, orientation, training, information, and rehabilitation programs. In FY 1976, 5,433 distributions were made to Veterans Administration stations, other Federal and State agencies, veterans organizations, educational institutions, and professional and scientific groups.
Six television spot announcements were produced during the year to inform veterans and their dependents of benefits available under the law. These announcements covered such subjects as employment of the handicapped veteran; three versions of information on Va benefits, two in English plus a Spanish language version; a spot on VA Insurance; and another one which informed veterans to submit answers to all questions when requesting information from the Veterans Administration.
Our exhibits activity produced 17 new exhibits this year on 11 program titles for the Departments of Medicine and Surgery and Veterans Benefits, and the Office of Personnel. There were 217 new and existing exhibits presented for a total of 2,102 presentation days at Veterans Administration sta. tions, National and State Veterans Organization Conventions, educational institutions, and during professional, medical, scientific and industrial group meetings.
Presidential Memorial Certificate Program
In the area of motion picture film production, three feature documentaries were completed during the year. The film "It Could Be For You" portrays the many work opportunities available in the Veterans Administration Hospital system for adult volunteers in the care of veteran patients. The U.S. Information Agency Interdepartmental Committee, reviewing selections of visual and auditory materials for showing abroad, recommended that the film be considered for entry in future Foreign Medical Film Festivals. The film titled "Audie Murphy Has The Nicest Friends" was the official filming of the unveiling and dedication of the Audie L. Murphy Memorial Statue, VA Hospital, San Antonio, Texas. The film "On Behalf Of All The People" documents the National Veterans Day Ceremonies at Arlington National Cemetery on Veterans Day, October 27, 1975.
Other motion picture films completed this fiscal year are titled "Intermittent Catheterization" and "Intermittent Self-Catheterization," describing and demonstrating detailed teaching procedures of great value in the early treatment of spinal cord injuries; and "Physical Management of Psychiatric Patients" for use in Department of
Under authority contained in Section 112, Title 38, U.S.C., the VA is responsible for issuance of Presidential Memorial Certificates to the next of kin of honorably discharged deceased veterans. This certificate bears the signature of the President, and expresses the country's grateful recognition of the veteran's service in the Armed Forces. Eligibility for the certificate is determined by the VA when notice of the veteran's death is received, and next of kin information is available, Certificates may also be issued upon request to other relatives and friends of the deceased veteran.
The VA now issues an average of 890 certifi. cates daily, and over 224,000 certificates were mailed during FY 1976 to the next of kin. Since the program was started in March 1962, over 2.8 million certificates have been issued.
CONSUMER REPRESENTATION PLAN
were handled by District Counsels and others by the Administrative Division Chief in Central Office. The new system includes all tort claims and their status without regard to the amount.)
During the year, the VA's Consumer Represen. tation Plan was completed and approved by the Office of Consumer Affairs. Consumer input is received from six major sources: interested individuals; the veteran; the veterans' organizations; data gathered in ongoing evaluations and surveys conducted internally and by independent advisors; advisory Committees; and community organizations. The purpose of this plan is to identify areas where consumer representation and participation in the decision-making process can be enhanced. The Associate Deputy Administrator was appointed Consumer Affairs Coordinator. Direct responsibility for Consumer Affairs has been vested in Veterans Assistance Service which through its Veterans Service Divisions located in 50 states, serves as a single point of entry for all veterans with questions or problems. It is able to cross organizational lines to handle any inquiry.
The type of activity classified as legislative functions includes the preparation of draft bills, participation in hearings before congressional committees, and analyses of legislation for use of the committees or as requested by either the President or the Office of Management and Budget. As a necessary preparatory step, all of the 5,162 bills and resolutions introduced in Congress during FY 1976 were reviewed to determine their relevancy to veterans' programs. During the fiscal year, legislative functions totalled 1,146.
LAW AND LEGISLATION
Such actions for FY 1976 reached a total of 6,434. These included written opinions, as well as briefs, reports and other pleadings prepared for use in connection with litigated cases.
In addition, the General Counsel through the District Counsels in 54 of the 58 regional offices furnished legal advice to the field stations. In this connection, 39,997 written legal opinions were prepared in FY 1976, over 11,000 more than in FY 1975. More than half of these were on questions involving title to real property.
On June 30, 1975, 1,256 civil litigation suits of all types were pending. During the year, 1,293 new cases were received and 1,162 were disposed of, leaving a balance of 1,387 as of June 30, 1976.
In FY 1976, 1,413 tort claims were handled by District Counsels in the field and the professional staff in Central Office. This figure includes 687 claims which were allowed by District Counsels and 608 which were disallowed. Of those allowed, 582 were claims under $2,500 paid out of VA appropriated funds. As of June 30, 1976, there was a total of 468 claims pending. (These figures are derived from a new reporting system which now combines the total workload in both field offices and Central Office. Under the previous system, certain relatively small tort claims paid
The Board of Veterans Appeals provides appellate review of questions involving benefits administered by the VA. Sections 4001 - 4009, Title 38, U.S.C., establish the Board's authority and responsibility. This review is independent of field offices responsible for initial adjudication of claims. In each case a claimant files a Notice of Disagreement with the field office that took the action in question. That office reviews the case in light of the disagreement and, if unable to grant benefits sought, provides the appellant a Statement of the Case. This statement outlines the issue, evidence of record, laws and regulations involved, and the reason for the decision. If the appellant, after receiving and analyzing the Statement of the Case, continues to disagree with the adjudicative decision, he or she submits a Substantive Appeal. Again the field office reviews the case. If the matter cannot be resolved to the satisfaction of the claimant, the field office certifies the case to the Board for review of the entire record and final decision.
During FY 1976 there were 53,073 appeals initiated - 16 percent more than in FY 1975. The major upswing in appeals started in the final quarter of FY 1975 and continued throughout FY 1976. There were 50,431 final dispositions under the VA appeals program-an increase of nearly 16 percent over the previous year. The number of appeals in process at year's end rose from 27,723 to 31,457, while overall processing time rose slightly from. 8.1 'months in FY 1975 to 8.5 months in FY 1976. This time is measured from
the date of filing a Notice of Disagreement until the date the Board of Veterans Appeals enters a decision on the appeal.
There was a significant increase in the number of appellants who had formal hearings before the Board-from 868 in FY 1975 to 1,141 in FY 1976. Of these, 429 were held by travel sections in 40 field stations. The percentage of appellants availing themselves of formal hearings before the Board rose to nearly 4.1 percent-up from 3.5 percent in FY 1975.
Appeals in which appellants chose national service organizations to represent them before the Board showed an increase, while there was a corresponding decline in those who elected to pursue appeals without representation. In FY 1976, 80.7 percent of appellants were represented by service organizations-up from 79.1 percent in FY 1975. Representation by attorneys and agents fell from 2.4 percent in FY 1975 to 2.3 percent in FY 1976. The portion of appellants who chose to prosecute their appeals without representation dropped from 18.5 percent in FY 1975 to 16.9 percent in FY 1976. Vigorous and competent representation for appellants greatly assisted them in pursuing their appeals. At the same time, by their efforts to fully develop cases, representatives helped the Board reach equitable and well-reasoned decisions.
Categories of issues on appeal were virtually unchanged from FY 1975 to FY 1976. About 49 percent of the issues involved service connection for disabilities and 25 percent were for increased ratings. Death cases comprised just over 8 percent and non-service connected pension cases came to more than 7 percent. Remaining appeals covered the entire spectrum of veterans' benefits.
The Board had 122 attorneys and 17 doctors of medicine on its staff. Other professional support available upon request within the VA included advisory medical opinions from the office of the Chief Medical Director and legal opinions from the office of the General Counsel. In addition, under the authority of Section 4009, Title 38, U.S.C., the Board requested a total of 237 medical advisory opinions from independent medical experts who were not employees of the VA.
During FY 1976 there were 50,431 final appellate dispositions-nearly 16 percent more than in FY 1975. Of these, 12,651 were allowances, 13,483 were closures for failure to respond to statements of the case, 4,370 were withdrawals by claimants, and 19,927 were denials of benefits sought. The accompanying table shows summaries
CIVIL RIGHTS CONTRACT COMPLIANCE Industrial Compliance
The VA is responsible for assuring compliance with Federal Equal Employment Opportunity regulations for contractors, subcontractors and suppliers in the pharmaceutical, soap and cosmetic, and wholesale drug industries. During FY 1976, the VA conducted 232 onsite compliance reviews at facilities in these industries as follows: Pharmaceuticals - 143; Soaps and Cosmetics - 68; Wholesale Drugs - 21. The statistical data submitted reflected a total of 115,440 employees, of whom 18,750 or 16.2 percent were minorities, and 40,535 or 35.1 percent were women.
Of the 232 onsite reviews conducted, 37 were pre-award reviews; 2 were follow-up reviews; 11 complaint reviews; and 182 post-award reviews. Of the total onsite reviews, 29 were initial reviews. Contract Compliance personnel met with contractors 132 times to provide technical assistance. Also, 3,190 requests for EEO clearance for government contracts were processed.
Twenty-three show cause notices were issued during FY 1976, and authority requested from the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) to issue 14-day notices of debarment in 6 cases. Of the 23 enforcement actions, 15 were still in conciliation stages at the end of FY 1976.
In May 1976 Contract Compliance Service participated in a hearing on issues of law and fact held by the Department of Labor in Washington, D.C. A major pharmaceutical firm had requested the Director, Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs for a hearing on (1) whether or not compliance agencies (VA in this case) are required to make random or statistically valid samples, and (2) if so, was what VA did such a sample. Meanwhile, the company refused to release to this compliance agency information necessary for completion of its investigation. No decision had been issued as of the close of the fiscal year.
During FY 1976 the staff settled 13 of the 20 identified contractor affected class situations, with the result that covered employees were to receive $262,805 in back pay or incentive bonuses. The remaining seven cases were still under negotiation at the close of the fiscal year.
Remedies for inequality of pay for substantially equal work deficiencies at seven locations involved $10,179 in back pay and immediate promotions.
Other important results of industrial compliance reviews included the equalization of employment benefits, the removal of invalid and non-job related selection criteria adversely affecting minorities and/or women, construction of a dressing room for women in a New Jersey production facility, training and incentive programs to assist in the movement of covered group members to non-traditional jobs, the revision of job ladders, and the awarding of retroactive seniority.
The highlight of program developments during the year was the extension of the industrial compliance program to Puerto Rico, where initially over 70 facilities were identified as assigned to VA and 27 as Federal contractors and subcontractors. By year's end, three mandatory pre-award reviews had been conducted there. Also, a technical assistance conference was held in San Juan for four more firms who annually receive $1 million or more in contract awards. Construction Compliance
The basic mission of VA's construction com
pliance program is to ensure that contractors and subcontractors, and prospective contractors and subcontractors, meet their contractual obligations under Executive Order 11246, as amended, on all VA construction projects. During FY 1976, there were 308 VA construction projects operating under "City Plans" administered by the Department of Labor and 123 VA construction projects ($100,000 or more) operating outside City Plan areas, for an overall total of 431 contracts. There were 2,586 contractors, including subcontractors, on these projects. Fifty-six percent of VA construction contractors ($500,000 or more) were in non-plan areas.
Highlights of the construction compliance activities during the year include the following:
1. A total of 414 pre-award reviews were conducted for low bidders to provide orientation and to emphasize the EEO requirements of the VA should an award be made.
2. Contractors, having been successful bidders on major projects ($500,000 or more), were given a more detailed description of their EEO obligations in 51 preconstruction conferences.
3. There were 300 onsite reviews of major construction contractors. These reviews consist of conferences with individual contractors, with the prime contractor participating, to discuss contractors' performance and to obtain commitments for corrective action where appropriate.
4. Approximately 8,700 desk reviews were made of minority group employment at VA project sites to evaluate day-to-day performance and to identify needs for improvement. This overall review process is based on daily logs provided by VA construction officials, in conjunction with the Monthly Manpower Utilization Reports from construction contractors.
5. Special Bid Conditions for the employment of minorities and women were prepared by the VA and approved by the Department of Labor for use on VA construction projects in the Augusta, Georgia, Standard Metropolitan Statistical Area.
Minority group employment on all major construction projects ($500,000 or more) averaged 25 percent. Minority group workers accounted for better than one-fifth of the total skilled manhours worked and almost half of the total unskilled manhours worked. In non-plan areas, the level of minority group representation on VA contractors' site forces was attributed to careful monitoring and follow-up. This resulted in minority utilization of approximately 26 percent on major projects of $500,000 or more.
VA, Non-VA and State Home Hospitals: Admissions, Discharges,
146 147 150 151
18 19 20 21