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.

About the Author

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

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