Vets poorly served by VA call centers, audit finds

Less than half of callers get satisfaction, report says

Callers seeking help from the Veterans Benefits Administration have only a 49 percent chance of reaching an agent and getting accurate information, according to a new audit by the Veterans Affairs Department's Office of Inspector General.

Belinda Finn, an assistant inspector general for audits and evaluations, examined the VA’s eight national call centers, pension call center and the Internet-based Inquiry Routing and Information System in an audut released May 13.

People calling the benefits centers reached an agent 76 percent of the time in fiscal 2009. Of those reaching an agent, agents answered 72 percent of their questions correctly, the audit found..

“When we combined VBA’s reported data on access and accuracy, we concluded that any one call placed by a unique caller had a 49 percent chance of reaching an agent and getting the correct information,” the audit report said. “This occurred because VBA did not have a central entity to provide leadership and guidance, establish sufficient performance standards to evaluate timeliness and accuracy, provide adequate training, and implement an efficient call-routing system.”

During fiscal 2009, callers made 7.41 million attempts to contact the eight call centers. Of these attempts, 24 percent either received a busy signal or hung up while on hold during the call. The hang-ups occurred because calls were not routed, the VA did not hold agents accountable for timeliness, and VA agents did not have access to information needed to respond to the call, the report said.

Finn recommended that the VA establish the capability to efficiently route calls, set targets to reduce busy signals, set targets for agent productivity and conduct further assessments.

VA executives agreed with the findings and recommendations, the report said.

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Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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Reader comments

Sun, Jan 24, 2016 Bishop E4 Northwest, IN

Problem still exists to a veteran of Gulf War, served Nov. 6 90-Nov. 6, 94, I felt I was very poorly treated and handled by the general call center...almost 2 hours of numerous calls and holding time before resolving my issue. Kept my cool, discipline still works. This needs to be fixed! Maybe hire veterans for the job?

Wed, May 1, 2013 . ooper Hines, Oregon

Pity the poor ex serviceman. Politicians don't give a dam for him nor does the DVA. The US Army makes promises they have no intentions of keeping and the DVA is just another way to spend taxpayer money for nothing. I am doomed to spend the rest of my life in pain because the medical personell in the DVA will not listen!!

Wed, Jan 16, 2013 50% Dis Virginia

Call center is a total fail,..I'm in my 9th day of trying to get them to respond!

Tue, Jan 1, 2013 Charles Gulfcoast

If by chance you get through to a person they read from a script. They do not give ANY new info other than the obvious. This is a shame that we have no choice but file claims through the VA. I THOUGHT THIS WAS AMERICA!!! I sacrificed for my country and was injured and it should be only fair the the VA does the same for all vets.

Mon, Aug 20, 2012

Still a problem in Aug 2012. All routing options end up with an option to have the VA call you back or to try again later and they never call you back. Been trying to change my address for two weeks straight with no luck and I cant do it online because I don't have a "premium" account. Which they could give me over the phone, but they don't answer the phone. This has to be some kind of cruel joke, because it is just to unimaginably bad to be a real effort at service.

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