[House Hearing, 112 Congress]
[From the U.S. Government Printing Office]



 
VETERANS AFFAIRS IN THE 112TH CONGRESS: REVIEWING VA'S PERFORMANCE AND 
                             ACCOUNTABILITY
=======================================================================



                                HEARING

                               before the

                     COMMITTEE ON VETERANS' AFFAIRS

                     U.S. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

                      ONE HUNDRED TWELFTH CONGRESS

                             SECOND SESSION

                               __________

                      THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 20, 2012

                               __________

                           Serial No. 112-76

                               __________

       Printed for the use of the Committee on Veterans' Affairs




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                     COMMITTEE ON VETERANS' AFFAIRS

                     JEFF MILLER, Florida, Chairman

CLIFF STEARNS, Florida               BOB FILNER, California, Ranking
DOUG LAMBORN, Colorado               CORRINE BROWN, Florida
GUS M. BILIRAKIS, Florida            SILVESTRE REYES, Texas
DAVID P. ROE, Tennessee              MICHAEL H. MICHAUD, Maine
MARLIN A. STUTZMAN, Indiana          LINDA T. SANCHEZ, California
BILL FLORES, Texas                   BRUCE L. BRALEY, Iowa
BILL JOHNSON, Ohio                   JERRY McNERNEY, California
JEFF DENHAM, California              JOE DONNELLY, Indiana
JON RUNYAN, New Jersey               TIMOTHY J. WALZ, Minnesota
DAN BENISHEK, Michigan               JOHN BARROW, Georgia
ANN MARIE BUERKLE, New York          RUSS CARNAHAN, Missouri
TIM HUELSKAMP, Kansas
MARK E. AMODEI, Nevada
ROBERT L. TURNER, New York

            Helen W. Tolar, Staff Director and Chief Counsel

Pursuant to clause 2(e)(4) of Rule XI of the Rules of the House, public 
hearing records of the Committee on Veterans' Affairs are also 
published in electronic form. The printed hearing record remains the 
official version. Because electronic submissions are used to prepare 
both printed and electronic versions of the hearing record, the process 
of converting between various electronic formats may introduce 
unintentional errors or omissions. Such occurrences are inherent in the 
current publication process and should diminish as the process is 
further refined.


                            C O N T E N T S

                               __________

                           September 20, 2012

                                                                   Page

Veterans Affairs In The 112th Congress: Reviewing VA's 
  Performance And Accountability.................................     1

                           OPENING STATEMENTS

Chairman Jeff Miller.............................................     1
    Prepared Statement of Chairman Miller........................    32
Hon. Corrine Brown, Acting Ranking Democratic Member.............     3
    Prepared Statement of Hon. Brown.............................    34
Hon. Russ Carnahan, prepared statement only......................    34

                               WITNESSES

Hon. W. Scott Gould, Deputy Secretary of Veterans Affairs, U.S. 
  Department of Veterans Affairs.................................     4
    Prepared Statement of Hon. Gould.............................    35
    Accompanied by:

      W. Todd Grams, Executive in Charge, Office of Management, 
          Chief Financial Officer, U.S. Department of Veterans 
          Affairs

                        QUESTIONS FOR THE RECORD

Responses from the Department of Veterans' Affairs...............    42

                   MATERIALS SUBMITTED FOR THE RECORD

Setting Up an eBenefits Account..................................    61
Claim Status Availability in eBenefits...........................    62


VETERANS AFFAIRS IN THE 112TH CONGRESS: REVIEWING VA'S PERFORMANCE AND 
                             ACCOUNTABILITY


                      Thursday, September 20, 2012

                     U.S. House of Representatives,
                            Committee on Veterans' Affairs,
                                                   Washington, D.C.
    The Committee met, pursuant to notice, at 10:19 a.m., in 
Room 334, Cannon House Office Building, Hon. Jeff Miller 
[Chairman of the Committee] presiding.
    Present: Representatives Miller, Roe, Stutzman, Flores, 
Johnson, Runyan, Benishek, Huelskamp, Turner, Brown, Michaud, 
McNerney, Walz, and Barrow.

           OPENING STATEMENT OF CHAIRMAN JEFF MILLER

    The Chairman. The Committee will come to order.
    Thank you, everybody, for being here for today's Full 
Committee hearing entitled Veterans Affairs in the 112th 
Congress: Reviewing VA's Performance and Accountability.
    Let me start by first saying VA is to be commended for some 
of the areas that we are going to be examining in this 
morning's hearing.
    For example, the number of homeless veterans is declining 
and I know that that is something that the Secretary has been 
very focused on over the last number of years.
    VA reports that on any given night, the number of homeless 
veterans has fallen from 76,000 in 2009 to 67,500 in the latest 
report of 2011.
    We have to sustain that effort and address the root causes 
of homelessness. But at present, I am pleased that the goal of 
ending homelessness by 2015 is well within reach.
    Also on the positive side, the default rates on VA 
guaranteed loans continue to be lower than non-VA backed loans. 
Given the turmoil in the housing market, the success VA has had 
in keeping veterans in their homes is laudable.
    And, finally, I want to congratulate VA on the aggressive 
manner in which it prepared for and promoted the Veterans 
Retraining Assistance Program or VRAP, part of our effort to 
reduce veteran unemployment.
    With the VOW Act's goal to retrain 99,000 veterans using 
the Montgomery GI Bill, as of today, VA had received 58,432 
applications and I understand they have approved 45,205 and 
maybe more than that by this morning.
    So to VA today, we say thank you and keep up the good work.
    Despite these successes, progress is not being made fast 
enough or in some cases any progress being made in other key 
areas.
    On the important issue of mental health care, too many 
veterans either do not seek assistance or are unable to get VA 
mental health care in a timely fashion. As a result, access to 
mental health care is in crisis.
    In April, the VA inspector general released a report 
finding that more than half of the veterans who seek mental 
health care through VA wait 50 days, that is five zero, 50 days 
to receive an evaluation.
    These are men and women who have taken the brave and 
difficult step of seeking help. They are waiting too long to 
receive that help.
    Interestingly, just days before the IG report was released, 
VA made a surprise announcement that it was going to be 
increasing mental health staff by 1,900 individuals. It is 
undoubtedly important to ensure proper staff are in place to 
meet the increasing demand for mental health care, but here is 
the problem.
    There is already almost 1,500 mental health professionals 
and vacancies within the system which means 1,900 new hires 
equates to a net gain of 400. As of mid July, VA had hired less 
than 900 employees as part of this effort.
    Follow-up requests by Committee staff for additional 
information unfortunately has gone unanswered. Meanwhile data 
suggests that 18 veterans per day commit suicide and five of 
those were receiving VA care at the time of their death. We 
have got to do better. I do not think anybody can question 
that.
    Another area of continued concern is the backlog of 
disability claims. Notwithstanding pledges by VA officials that 
we are about to turn the corner, the backlog has steadily 
increased throughout the past two years and at the beginning of 
this Congress, the number of pending claims was 764,476 with 
39.4 percent pending for more than 125 days.
    As of this month, that total number of claims pending has 
increased to 897,767 and 66.4 percent are pending longer than 
125 days.
    The Department's refrain has been that overall production 
is over one million claims annually and that the Agent Orange 
claims presented a challenge. But the simple fact remains that 
more claims continue to be filed than processed and there is no 
end in sight.
    Although this Administration has promised that the backlog 
will be eliminated by 2015 and that claims will be processed 
with 98 percent accuracy by that time, quite frankly, many of 
us, myself included, are worried as to whether this goal 
remains realistic or not.
    In addition, the Committee has frequently been told that 
VBA's transformation plan is the answer to all the problems. 
Although we certainly commend VA for realizing that 
comprehensive changes are required to bring VBA into the 21st 
century, the Committee has yet to see an actual plan.
    We need to see it in writing and we need to see clear 
benchmarks and deadlines. We have yet to see this plan despite 
making three separate requests both during hearings and in 
writing which have gone unanswered.
    I would like to continue working with the department on 
bringing VA into the 21st century and we will be best able to 
do so by being provided with a written copy of the 
transformation plan.
    Finally, although VA has been more fortunate than other 
agencies in the resources it has received in this tight fiscal 
climate, the bureaucracy has helped itself to those resources 
rather than channeling them directly to services for the 
veteran.
    VA's Senior Executive Service Bonus Program continues to 
average nearly $4 million in annual pay-outs with no apparent 
correlation between these bonuses and agency performance. The 
Committee is also addressing the lavish conference 
expenditures. I and Ranking Member Filner sent a letter to VA 
over a month ago asking for details as to how $100 million was 
spent in 2011 on conferences and to date, we have yet to 
receive a response.
    The government was on the verge of a shutdown and a default 
last year. Thus the fact that VA cannot describe how over $100 
million was spent to me is unconscionable.
    Despite promises of better fiscal stewardship from the 
Administration, these are glaring examples of serious 
shortcomings that have got to be fixed.
    There is more I could have touched on in this opening 
statement, but I will wait for our questioning. We have got a 
lot of ground to cover this morning.
    And I want to yield now to the Ranking Member, Ms. Brown, 
my colleague from Florida, for her opening statement.

    [The prepared statement of Chairman Miller appears in the 
Appendix]

           OPENING STATEMENT OF HON. CORRINE BROWN, 
                ACTING RANKING DEMOCRATIC MEMBER

    Ms. Brown. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and I appreciate you 
holding this hearing on VA performance and accountability 
during the 112th Congress.
    I am looking forward to finding out from the VA the 
progress it has made in addressing concern raised by this 
Committee.
    I am also looking forward to hearing from the deputy 
secretary how, in his view, the VA has become able to meet its 
responsibilities and provide health care and benefits to our 
veterans.
    I believe that this is an important point that we should 
not forget. For all the faults we find with how the VA 
operates, at the end of the day, it is providing service and 
benefits to millions of veterans and their families.
    Because the VA generally does a good job, it makes it even 
more important that we are proactive addressing their problems.
    Sometimes it is easy for us to forget that our role is to 
provide needed oversight to the VA. In the final analysis, we 
are all in this together. As the army says, it is one team, one 
fight.
    I also want to say how disappointed I am with the Senate 
republicans in an almost party line vote to block the veterans' 
job corps legislation. At a time when our veterans sorely need 
our help, they decided to play politics rather than being 
patriots.
    The cost of the war is more than just airplanes, tanks, and 
bullets. It is the cost of our heroes, our veterans, and we owe 
them more than just being a political toy.
    So today I am introducing the Companion Bill in the House 
and I hope, Mr. Chairman, that I have your support in bringing 
this bill to the House floor as soon as possible. Veterans 
deserve all that we can do to help them and their families.
    We need to stand up for them as they are standing up for 
us. Veterans' unemployment is 30 percent, so I think we should 
do all we can. As I said, the army motto is one team, one 
fight, working together in a bipartisan manner to make sure 
that we can address these needs.
    I am also looking forward to the deputy secretary's update 
on how the oversight concerns raised by this Committee has been 
addressed, how the VA is better today than it was yesterday, 
and what improvements and actions we can look forward to in the 
future.
    Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and I yield back the balance of my 
time.

    [The prepared statement of Hon. Brown appears in the 
Appendix]

    The Chairman. I appreciate the gentlewoman's comments.
    I would say that, this Committee has focused on veteran 
unemployment and if you take our bills that we have done here 
and compare them to the bill that was over in the Senate 
yesterday, the job corps bill was looking at costing some 
$50,000 a job where our VRAP bill was $16,000 a job. And we did 
not start a whole new bureaucracy in order to do what we needed 
to do.
    VRAP trains up to 99,000 veterans and the Job Corps Program 
only 20, so, yes, I commit to you to work as we work towards 
trying to find jobs for those unemployed veterans out there, 
not only those that are returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, 
but certainly those 35 to 60-year-old individuals who are 
finding themselves in need to retrain.
    I want to welcome the panel today to the table. With us 
this morning is W. Scott Gould, the Deputy Secretary of 
Veterans Affairs for the Department of Veterans Affairs, and 
Mr. Gould is accompanied by W. Todd Grams, Executive in Charge 
for the Office of Management and the Chief Financial Officer 
for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
    I appreciate you both being here this morning. And, 
Secretary Gould, you are recognized to proceed.

   STATEMENT OF W. SCOTT GOULD, DEPUTY SECRETARY OF VETERANS 
AFFAIRS, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS AFFAIRS ACCOMPANIED BY W. 
 TODD GRAMS, EXECUTIVE IN CHARGE FOR THE OFFICE OF MANAGEMENT 
   AND CHIEF FINANCIAL OFFICER, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS 
                            AFFAIRS

                STATEMENT OF HON. W. SCOTT GOULD

    Mr. Gould. Thank you, Chairman Miller, Ranking Member 
Brown, distinguished Members of the Veterans' Affairs 
Committee. Thank you for your unwavering commitment to veterans 
and for this opportunity to testify today.
    With me is Mr. Todd Grams, VA's Chief Financial Officer. 
Let me also acknowledge some of the veteran service 
organizations here today. Their insights are always 
appreciated.
    And, Mr. Chairman, I ask that my written statement be 
included for the record.
    The Chairman. Without objection.
    Mr. Gould. VA's only agenda is to provide veterans the best 
care and benefits possible. We appreciate this Committee's 
assistance in achieving this goal.
    Since 2009, we have accomplished many important 
achievements, yet we know we have more to do.
    Almost four years ago, we set three key priorities which 
remain unchanged today. First, increase veterans' access to 
benefits and services; second, eliminate the backlog in 
compensation claims in 2015; and, third, end veterans' 
homelessness also in 2015.
    I will briefly update you on our major achievements in each 
of these three areas.
    First, we have made great strides in increasing veterans' 
access to care and benefits. In our medical facilities, VA has 
handled more than 358 million medical encounters since 2009. 
Hundreds of thousands more veterans now receive care and 
benefits thanks to VA decisions on Agent Orange, Gulf War, 
traumatic brain injuries, and PTSD.
    Between 2008 and 2012, we increased the number of veterans 
receiving VA disability compensation by 21 percent, life 
insurance coverage for disabled veterans by 31 percent, the 
number of education beneficiaries by 63 percent, and those 
compensated for PTSD by 64 percent.
    Last month, we opened a state-of-the-art VA medical center 
in Las Vegas, the first new hospital in 17 years. Three more 
are under construction, Denver, Orlando, and New Orleans.
    We have also added 51 new community-based outpatient 
clinics, 40 mobile health clinics, and a fifth polytrauma 
center.
    In 2011, we provided telehealth to more than 380,000 
veterans.
    Since 2009, VA built an automated system for processing 
Post-9/11 GI Bill payments and has issued over $21 billion in 
payments to over 800,000 recipients.
    Today we have over a million veterans and family members in 
our educational programs across this country.
    Since the start of this Congress, 756,000 families got a VA 
home loan guarantee.
    With Congress' support and leadership, we implemented the 
Family Caregiver Program and now have over 5,900 primary family 
caregivers benefitting from this program.
    We are using technology to outreach to more veterans than 
ever before to provide easier access to benefits' information 
through on-line tools such as Blue Button and eBenefits.
    Almost a million servicemembers and veterans have 
downloaded electronic copies of their personal health records 
to date.
    Since 2005, we have increased the number of mental health 
professionals from 13,000 to over 20,000 and recently 
announced, as the Chairman just mentioned, our plans to hire an 
additional 1,600 more clinical staff, 1,900 including support.
    Since its establishment in 2007, our veterans' crisis line 
has rescued, rescued over 23,000 potential suicide victims.
    Since 2009, our National Cemetery Administration has opened 
six new national cemeteries, awarded grants to establish 15 
state cemeteries and five tribal cemeteries.
    Second, VA is using every tool available to end veteran 
homelessness. We thank the Committee for its support and for 
the resources to drive these efforts. Homelessness among 
veterans has declined by nearly 12 percent since the January 
2010 HUD count and we remain committed to ending veterans' 
homelessness in 2015.
    In the last two years, VA has helped over 119,000, 82 and a 
half percent of VA borrowers who got in trouble, who were in 
default avoid foreclosure.
    Chairman Miller, thanks to the leadership of this 
Committee, the Administration joined with you to make the VOW 
to Hire Heroes Act of 2011 a reality.
    The VOW Act created the Veterans Retraining Assistance 
Program or VRAP, as you mentioned a moment ago, and over 55,000 
veterans have now applied.
    In fiscal year 2011, VA's total award to small businesses 
was nearly $5.9 billion, 33.6 percent of all of VA's 
procurements, far exceeding the national goals for veteran and 
service-disabled veteran-owned businesses.
    Thirdly, eliminating the claims backlog is certainly our 
most complex challenge. VBA's annual claims receipts increased 
48 percent over the last four years and there has also been an 
increase in the average number of medical conditions each 
claimant files.
    This growth in demand is driven by a number of factors, but 
most importantly our decisions as advocates for veterans that I 
mentioned a moment ago on Agent Orange, PTSD, Gulf War.
    It is also exacerbated by increased survival rates, ten 
years of war, difficult economic conditions, and I would say 
successful VA outreach, getting more people to apply for the 
benefits they have earned.
    We are determined to eliminate the backlog. Secretary 
Shinseki and Panetta testified before you, Mr. Chairman, in an 
historic joint Committee hearing in July on the range of our 
VA/DoD collaboration and transition initiatives. These included 
IDES, the Integrated Disability Evaluation System, VA's 
paperless processing system called the Veterans Benefits 
Management System, and the integrated electronic health record 
which you know as IEHR, an ambitious effort that we have 
committed to have in place no later than 2017.
    Mr. Chairman, in 2009, President Obama charged Secretary 
Shinseki to transform VA into a high performing 21st century 
organization. Both the President and this Congress have 
afforded us the resources to make that transformation a 
reality.
    We have made significant progress, but we know that more 
remains to be done. I am grateful that Congress has been both 
our partner and our constructive critic as we have forged 
ahead.
    Mr. Chairman, I look forward to your questions.

    [The prepared statement of Hon. Gould appears in the 
Appendix]

    The Chairman. Thank you very much for your testimony.
    We will have the first round of questions and then if we 
need to go with a second round, we would be more than happy to 
do that as well.
    I want to talk a little bit about mental health and where 
we are and ask your help. We had asked two months ago for 
information in regards to where we are with mental health 
issues. We asked for a status broken down by occupation and 
facility of those new hires.
    There is a concern that I have that some of the new hires 
may, in fact, be transfers from other VA facilities that may be 
getting hired and also be getting incentive bonuses to make a 
transfer. While they are being called a hire, they are leaving 
a gaping hole somewhere within the system from where they went.
    Like I said, we started the process of asking for this back 
in July and I am just trying to find out are we going to get an 
answer? Do you have an answer for us today or can we expect an 
answer any time in the near future?
    Mr. Gould. Yes, sir, you certainly can. I would just like 
to place the interest that the Committee shares and that we are 
all very focused into a broader context.
    Mental health is obviously an area where we are addressing 
the hidden wounds of war. VA has an enormous integrated mental 
health system and we understand that link between mental health 
and physical health. The two are inextricably linked.
    The quality and size of our system is second to none. We 
have increased from 13,000 to over 20,000 mental health 
professionals in our system. We have a suicide prevention 
mechanism that is with our crisis hotline that has literally 
fielded 650,000 calls in the last three years, directed 99,000 
veterans and active-duty servicemembers in crisis to help 
within our system, and lastly saved 29,000 individuals. It is 
really an extraordinary record.
    And we are a demand driven organization. More people have 
demanded services in mental health here. We identified that 
problem last year. The IG confirmed it for us and we have 
embarked at your direction, Mr. Chairman, on an aggressive 
effort to hire 1,900 total mental health professionals and 
support staff, 1,600 mental health professionals.
    We are today hiring 75 a week. We are on track to meet the 
goals that we have set for hiring these individuals and, of 
course, our job one will be to train them, get them in place, 
and have them into the fight to join this extraordinarily large 
and high quality system that we have at VA.
    The Chairman. And I appreciate the numbers that you 
provided to the Committee. I would ask, if you could, provide 
for us, somebody provide for us a written report as to where we 
are in meeting the goals because I think this Committee and 
certainly VA itself share the same end result and that is to be 
able to provide care when the veterans need it, not some point 
down the road unfortunately when the veteran may have done 
something different than they may have wanted to do when they 
were reaching out for help.
    Let's talk a little bit about the backlog of claims that is 
out there. And I think, you know, probably the big question 
that a lot of people want answered right now is, is the goal of 
2015 attainable?
    It looks like we are slipping every day because of the 
numbers of claims that are coming in, but I would like to get 
an update from you, if you will, as to where we are because we 
are hearing it from veteran service organizations all across 
the country.
    I did an on-line chat yesterday with DAV and that was one 
of the big questions obviously is where are we with the 
tremendous backlog that is out there.
    Mr. Gould. Thank you for that opportunity to address the 
backlog.
    We are focused on it. It is a key area of endeavor for all 
of VA and specifically VBA. We are committed to make sure that 
our veterans receive the benefits that they have earned. We 
know that is our number one job. We are committed to make that 
happen.
    Mr. Chairman, as you mentioned, you know that we are 
swimming upstream on this. We have got a 50 percent growth in 
the number of claims since 2008. Think of that. Any business 
you have ever been in, 50 percent growth during that period of 
time.
    And as a consequence, the backlog which we define as any 
claim longer than 125 days has grown from about 180,000 to 
576,000 in that three-year period. At the same time, also the 
complexity of the claims, the number of components in a claim 
has grown by 330 percent.
    We also recognize that that increased wave is the product 
of our own decision-making. Think about this, and I want to 
make sure that every Member of the Committee really appreciates 
what has happened here.
    There were some courageous decisions made to increase 
access. Agent Orange, PTSD, these were along with Gulf War 
Syndrome examples where VA knew that the consequence would be 
that we are going to grow the wave and it might have been in 
VA's bureaucratic interest to say, no, no, no, let's not 
approve, let's not create that new access.
    Instead what we did is we made the right decision. The 
consequence of that Agent Orange, Gulf War, and PTSD was that 
more people have access to our system and the consequence of 
that is a bigger backlog.
    That story is laid out in pretty hard data. In 2009, we 
processed 977,000 claims. We got a million. 2010, we processed 
a million. For the first time in the organization's history, we 
get 1.2. In 2011, we processed a million claims again. We 
received 1.3 million claims. Sir, I am pleased to announce that 
this year, we will also hit a million claims.
    The consequence of that receipt outpacing our ability to 
produce places us at the beginning of a three-year run to end 
the backlog. And let me describe, if I might take a minute, how 
we are going to do that.
    At a very high level, our strategy to make this happen is 
we acknowledge the approximately 700,000 claims that we have in 
inventory and we project that we will receive another four 
million.
    Our job in the next three years is to process 4.7 million 
claims. How are we going to do it? There are three elements to 
our strategy and approach to make that happen.
    One begins with our people. Any great organization has got 
to train, prepare. We are training our people in a new way, 
more effective training, more of it, designed around a new 
process. We borrowed from the Internal Revenue Service the 
segmented lanes model. We are segmenting our lanes so all of 
our receipts are now in three key areas and we are applying new 
technology.
    Let's face it. VBA is the land that technology passed by 
for the last two decades. For whatever reason, there was not 
adequate investment there and there was not adequate leadership 
to make that happen. But today we have a plan. It is in place 
and we are executing it.
    And why am I confident that we can do it? For a couple of 
reasons. One is that the technology that we rely on in part is 
fielded in four pilot sites now and is going through user 
acceptance testing. We will know, this Committee will know. I 
look forward to come in reporting on our progress on the 
technology.
    We also have done the new training. It is at 18 locations 
now and last week, we are rolling it out across the country. 
The training works. Our training has improved quality by four 
points in the last year. And, finally, the new process elements 
working as well.
    Think for a minute of the success story I just mentioned a 
moment ago on GI Bill, Post-9/11 GI Bill payments. We have got 
800,000 people on that program now. When we started this 
journey three years ago, there was not a program for the new GI 
Bill. There was no technology to support it and there was not a 
process in place.
    The same team that designed and implemented that system, 
albeit smaller scaled than the claims that we are tackling, is 
the team that is doing this now. So I am reasonably confident, 
daunted but confident that we can do this and we will do it by 
processing 4.7 million claims over the next three years with 
better people, process, and technology.
    The Chairman. Thank you.
    Ms. Brown.
    Ms. Brown. I will yield to Mr. Michaud.
    The Chairman. Mr. Michaud.
    Mr. Michaud. Thank you very much, Mr. Chair and Ms. Ranking 
Member, for having this very important hearing.
    I also would like to thank our panelists as well and I want 
to thank you, Mr. Gould, and the VA employees for all the great 
work that you do providing services for our veterans.
    And I know the secretary has made a lot of improvements 
over the last few years, but we still have a long ways to go to 
make sure that we can provide the adequate services that our 
veterans have earned and deserve.
    I have got a couple questions. My first one is at the end 
of August, it came to my attention that the VA was moving 
forward with regulations to implement a fix to the state 
veterans home reimbursement rate issue. This has been an 
ongoing problem for the Committee.
    We finally were able to pass legislation, the Senate. It 
went to the President. He signed it. And the VA started moving 
forward with these regulations without first consulting with 
the state veterans home and this clearly was not the intent of 
Congress.
    Secretary Shinseki received a letter from myself as well as 
the chair and Ranking Members of both the House Committee on 
Veterans' Affairs as well as the Senate Committee, a joint 
letter from the four corners, stating the law and it is very 
clear. The secretary should consult with the homes and that is 
a big issue for me is the fact that that has not occurred.
    So my question is, can you assure me that the VA will in 
good faith meet with and negotiate with the state homes to 
develop an equitable provider agreement, number one?
    And the second issue is, when the VA meets with the state 
veterans home, to have someone in there that actually can make 
the decisions in that regard so they can hear firsthand some of 
the problems.
    This has been an ongoing issue since we originally passed 
the law back in 2006 and I do not want to get in the situation 
again where rules are implemented that will cause problems for 
our veterans' homes throughout the country.
    Mr. Gould. Mr. Michaud, I am glad you raise it. Very 
simply, I think that we at VA have an obligation to do two 
things under the Federal acquisition regulations. You know and 
I am sure we will hear more about areas where we need to do 
better in that score.
    But I think we have got two principal obligations, an 
obligation to transparency and an obligation to value. I cannot 
promise that we will not be very tough negotiators at the table 
looking to safeguard the expenditure of public funds, but I can 
assure you as in our discussion represented that the law was 
clear on that need to have a consultive process. And we will 
certainly commit to do that. And I look forward to that 
discussion.
    Mr. Michaud. Well, I hope you do because the law is very 
clear and that was a big concern not only of mine but the four 
corners of both the House and the Senate that the process was 
moving forward without that interaction which was required 
under the law. So I appreciate that.
    My second issue, and it is a frustration I know that both 
sides of the aisle have on this Committee and I know staff, 
republican staff and democratic staff has as well, is a lot of 
times when we ask for information from the VA, we do not get 
it. And it is not in the form that we asked the information and 
that is really frustrating.
    It is not because, I know myself anyway, but I am not sure 
about other Members, but it is not that we are going to try to 
get you by asking that information. It is because we have a 
reason for asking it.
    A good example is back in June when we were discussing the 
claims backlog within VBA, the concern in the inspector 
general's report was that VA employees were rushing through the 
process to get a claim done, therefore the accuracy rate has 
not been anywhere near where it should be.
    So taking that consideration with the employees feeling 
they have to rush through, my question to General Hickey at the 
time was, is there any benefit for an employee as far as how do 
you rate the employee as far as doing a good job or a bad job 
and how do you determine that.
    At that time, she stated that they do have a metric system, 
I cannot remember, that is a 93 or 98, you know, question 
metrics that they go through on how they evaluate the employee 
for accuracy, for timeliness getting claims done.
    So my question was, well, can the Committee see that 
metrics. Since that is how they are evaluating employees, it 
should be there, should be in place. We have not seen that 93 
or 98 metric system that we asked for back in June. Instead we 
received some, you know--well, we received information that was 
not a 98 metric system.
    So I guess my concern is not getting the information that 
we asked for from the VA so we can do a better job in 
evaluating how the VA is doing.
    Mr. Gould. And, Mr. Michaud, first of all, as Congressman 
Brown said, you know, one team, one mission here. Our number 
one job is to take care of our veterans.
    One of the roles that this oversight Committee plays is in 
bringing issues of poor performance to our attention and 
getting it done. I put your request in that category, informed 
by the notion that how you manage and rate your people and 
measure their performance is a critical part of improving our 
ability to process claims.
    I can say that this Committee has not been remiss in the 
level and vigor of its oversight. In the last three years, we 
have had 214 hearings. We have had 1,400 a week came up and 
said, look, we have got an issue, we want to explain what is 
going on here. We have had 4,400 official requests for the 
record and 54,000 constituent requests.
    By any stretch, that is a great deal of work for a 
dedicated team of some 40 individuals who work at VA. I can 
only offer that we are challenged to get the volume of requests 
and the quality that you demand, that this Committee demands, 
to apologize for it and know that it has not fallen off the 
table. We will get that information here.
    And I personally know that the performance evaluation 
system, the performance metrics by which our employees are 
measured in VBA is changing. Labor and management have worked 
together to develop a new set of standards to willingly hold 
each other to a higher standard and to evaluate performance 
based on group productivity.
    So we look forward to share that information with you and I 
will go back to our team and renew with questions to get that 
information to you.
    Mr. Michaud. Well, thank you very much.
    And I just want to reiterate she said they had it, so it 
was not that they had to create anything new and just a matter 
of giving us what we asked for, not something that we did not 
ask for.
    Mr. Gould. Yes, sir.
    Mr. Michaud. Thank you.
    Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
    Mr. Roe. [Presiding] I thank the gentleman for yielding.
    Just a couple of short questions. One, 54,000 constituent 
requests sounds like a lot. And you have what, 300,000 
employees in the VA system? I get a thousand requests every 90 
days in my congressional office for services. And we had 2,000 
the first six months of this year and we have got seven people 
doing that.
    So we do ten percent of what the VA does and that is in 
three years. We do 4,000 requests a year as every congressman 
and woman up here do, I think. Probably everybody has about 
that request. So that is not an overwhelming--it sounds like a 
lot, but we also see the same thing.
    Secondly, I want to start by thanking the VA. This Monday 
in a driving rainstorm in Sevierville, Tennessee, we opened a 
CBOC. Three hundred people showed up in the driving rain. That 
is the support that you get for veterans around the country.
    And I think that is one of the best programs that the VA 
has is to take its care to the people, not have them drive 
great distances to get this care. And I think it means a lot to 
the veterans. I think the quality of their care goes up because 
they will access it more.
    So we had a local mayor, county mayor who made available 
space for a dollar a year for the VA to lease, an extremely 
generous offer even the VA could not turn down. So I want to 
just put that plug in because that is a very positive thing.
    Mr. Walz and I yesterday co-chaired the Invisible Wounds 
Caucus together and we had a hearing yesterday. And one of the 
things that is counterintuitive is that the more people the VA 
has hired, the suicide rate has gone exactly the opposite 
direction we want it to. So hiring more people had not solved 
the problem.
    And we heard various solutions yesterday and I want to ask 
some questions. VA working with non-VA assets, for instance, 
not alone, other programs like that around the country because 
what we hear and what we heard yesterday was vet on vet is more 
effective. If you call up and talk to one--one veteran gets to 
speak to another veteran, that this is extremely effective.
    So are you all working with others outside the VA system?
    Mr. Gould. We certainly are. And as a physician, as a 
doctor, I know you know the challenges that we are facing.
    I think the most interesting piece of data that we have is 
that since 2005, the veterans who are under our care, that 
suicide rate has actually gone down. So our approach is working 
when veterans get in care.
    At the same time in the last ten years in our country, how 
many people died of suicide, 350,000, the equivalent of the 
population of New Orleans, took their own lives. We have a 
national crisis afoot and it is no surprise that the military 
from which we draw those recruits is also challenged given the 
unique stress and strains that we have placed on them.
    We assert that our care is effective. We are hiring more to 
create more access and as we had recently with our suicide 
prevention line increased by 50 percent the number of people 
who were there to answer that critical call.
    Mr. Roe. Here's what Dr. Rudd yesterday told us and we have 
heard this testimony before is that you clearly have the group, 
you just get a group of the population, there is an incidence, 
a background incidence of suicide in that group. But then there 
are two other groups. There are groups of the number of 
deployments and multiple deployments. The rate skyrockets.
    Mr. Gould. Yes.
    Mr. Roe. So that is where we need to look at a program and 
we know out here, we need to do better screening and getting 
mental health screening and getting people in the military.
    But once you have seen two and three and four deployments, 
that goes up. We know that number. And so that is where I think 
obviously with DoD and VA, that is sort of out of your purview, 
but we need to create programs with both of those to identify 
those folks and be proactive in that. I think that is very 
important.
    Secondly, I want to know is that in the backlog, the claim 
and backlogs of claims, when will a veteran like myself be able 
to go on-line, let's say I have a claim, and can go on-line and 
look where my claim is, can find it, look at it, because I have 
been told ever since I have been here now for three years that 
was going to happen? When is that going to happen?
    Mr. Gould. You have been to the Web site and seen 
eBenefits?
    Mr. Roe. No, I have not. I just want to know if I am a 
veteran and I have got a claim out there in claims land, 
wherever it may be, and I do not know where it is and when it 
is ever going to--and I have not heard from anybody in six 
months, when can I type in my information and find out why it 
is taking so long because we were told that was going to occur?
    Mr. Gould. And correctly. It is in the eBenefits functional 
suite. Today there are 46 different things that you can do on 
the eBenefits Web site. And today I am happy to announce 1.9 
million people have visited that site. So it is a web-based 
tool to be able to get information from VA including the status 
of claims.
    Mr. Roe. The question I am asking is, that is all good and 
fine and dandy, but the question I am asking is, am I going to 
hear something in 30 days because I have got a house payment to 
make or am I going to hear something in six months? When am I 
going to get some resolution for me?
    Mr. Gould. Well, I will answer that on a couple of levels. 
I mentioned earlier that we have processed now at the end of 
this year almost four million claims. So there are four million 
people that have that answer.
    If your answer is prospectively when can I use the web to 
get that information in the future, that is part of our roll-
out.
    Mr. Roe. That is the question I am asking. My questions 
have not been answered yet. My question is, when a veteran in 
my district or any of these districts that we represent goes 
on-line with this backlog, where am I in this process? Am I 
going to hear something in two months or three months or when 
am I going to hear something?
    Mr. Gould. So a couple ways you can get that information. 
Call your VSO and they will enter the system or call a service 
provider.
    Mr. Roe. But what we were told was the veteran would be 
able to electronically go to their iPad or their computer and--
--
    Mr. Gould. Yes.
    Mr. Roe. --be able to find out the status of their claim.
    Mr. Gould. Yes.
    Mr. Roe. I mean, I know it is a tough situation. But is 
there in the foreseeable future, is that going to happen?
    Mr. Gould. Yes. As I mentioned a moment ago, it is part of 
our transformation plan, the technology component, and the very 
system is already deployed called eBenefits. That will be the 
place that your member can go to find the status of their 
claim.
    And today 1.9 million people already do that, get 
information from the VA on the web. They can do it today. It is 
a deployed system. And we continue to add to it on natural 
basis every 60 to 90 days new functionality. So we are eagerly 
anticipating growth in the use of that capability.
    We also have a new phone system in place, a veterans' 
relationship management, and, of course, we have new people who 
are trained to take a phone call and answer that question by 
phone. A little bit more conventional, but, again, your member, 
your constituent can get that information through a variety of 
ways.
    You are specifically asking about eBenefits. I am here to 
tell you that capability is out there. There are 109 million 
people using it today.
    Mr. Roe. Okay. I am going to have to check that out.
    Mr. Gould. Great.
    Mr. Roe. I yield now to Mr. McNerney.
    Mr. McNerney. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
    Mr. Gould, Secretary Gould, I was very impressed with the 
list of accomplishments that you gave at the beginning of your 
testimony.
    And when we are back in our districts, we do not hear that. 
What we hear are the complaints. And so that is what we bring 
forward.
    So I appreciate you making that list and I encourage you to 
make sure that that is known throughout the community because 
you have accomplished quite a bit.
    Mr. Gould. Thank you.
    Mr. McNerney. One of the things that I think is frustrating 
as a Committee Member, and I have heard this already this 
morning, is the quality of answers that we receive in Committee 
when we ask questions and when we submit questions to the 
Administration.
    It is often felt that we are not getting the question 
answered the way we wanted. The information is misleading or 
cloudy. So I would encourage you to work within the VA to try 
and get a culture where when we ask a question that the answer 
is straightforward and answers the intent of the question. And 
that might help with some of the tension that does exist 
between the Committee and the VA.
    Another area of frustration is the claims processing. I 
have the Oakland regional district. A regional office serves my 
district. And, as you know, there is problems. There has been 
problems in the past. I know that you are making a big effort 
to solve those problems.
    And one of the questions I have for you is, do you feel 
that there is sufficient oversight within the VA now moving 
forward because we are going to get through this one way or 
another? There may be some pain in between, but are we going to 
have to face this again in five years? Are regional offices 
going to fall behind again or is there a system in place to 
make sure that we do not get to this place again in the near 
future, five years or ten years from now?
    Mr. Gould. Well, sir, thank you for the recognition of the 
accomplishments that VA has achieved over the last several 
years. We do not get to say it enough and we often have 
hearings around issues that feel like we are just looking at 
the missed blocks, the missed assignment, the dropped pass as 
opposed to the number of times that we put points on the board.
    And when I talk about that, I talk about the 800,000 
additional people who are in school, the 20,000 people who are 
in a home today that would have been foreclosed if not but for 
our intervention, the half a million people receiving claims 
that is equivalent to the entire standing active-duty army 
today, and the increased access, that 800,000 veterans by being 
a part of this wonderful health care system.
    You know, I do not know how many of you saw the recent data 
from one of the top American medical commissions. We have 19 of 
the top hospitals in the country. There are 6,000 hospitals in 
America. We only have 152 and 19 of them are in the top 
hospitals in America. That is really amazing.
    To your point about clarifying and getting better at 
providing information to this Committee, sir, I will take that 
back and we will redouble our efforts to do that.
    One of the challenges is when we are asked for data, we 
deliver it with a forklift. It literally takes dozens of people 
to be able to go through. And, you know, we have got one 
instance where we are going through emails. There is a half 
million of them. You know, what do you do with a request like 
that? It is challenging.
    And, finally, our commitment to fixing this problem once 
and for all on claims processing, you are right, we want to 
build a system that is robust, that has got a strong management 
infrastructure, and that will be able to solve this problem and 
keep it solved.
    We are doing that. As I have articulated earlier, our plan 
has the three components, people, process, and technology. We 
are confident that we can do that because this team that is 
doing it is the one who successfully fielded the new GI Bill 
which has got over 800,000 people in school today and has paid 
over $21 billion worth of tuition. Pretty significant 
accomplishments and we are confident that we are building the 
right kind of management infrastructure to make that possible 
in the future.
    Mr. McNerney. Well, in the Oakland regional office, all the 
claims are being brokered at this point in order for them to 
catch up, but the brokered claims are not being--they are not 
being followed. There is not the oversight through the Star 
Program of the brokered claims.
    Wouldn't that be important to know whether our brokered 
claims are being processed accurately or not?
    Mr. Gould. Yes, sir, it would. And it is one of the reasons 
why the technology component of our transformation plan is so 
important.
    Imagine a world now where you want to broker a claim. And 
what this term means is very simple, is go find the labor that 
is available and match the available labor in the queue to that 
claim so you can get it done more efficiently and what happens? 
Our veterans wait less time. So that is our objective.
    Today we do it by UPS and FedEx. Today we run the risk of 
having those folders lost. We have got to docket them in on a 
manual basis from, to, and so forth. With the VBMS System, we 
will be able to broker that electronically and with it an audit 
trail that gets generated so we know exactly where those claims 
are going, who they were assigned to, what the status of that 
is.
    Mr. McNerney. And what is our timeline for that 
implementation?
    Mr. Gould. We are in user acceptance testing now. We will 
have version 3.0 of that IT system by the end of this month, 
version 3.1 by the end of October. It is delivering the 
functionality now and, of course, as the system matures, it 
gets better, it improves, we will be able to embrace more and 
more functionality over time.
    But it is out there. We are testing it now. This is not a 
hypothetical or theoretical statement. We are doing the work 
now in four locations.
    Mr. McNerney. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
    The Chairman. [Presiding] Mr. Johnson.
    Mr. Johnson. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
    Deputy Secretary Gould, veterans are reporting delays in 
care and products like heart stents and prosthetics.
    Do you have any insight into why this might be true?
    Mr. Gould. And the particular things were heart stents----
    Mr. Johnson. Heart stents and prosthetics.
    Mr. Gould. Mr. Johnson, I do not. I can tell you what we 
are doing to improve the quality of our acquisition system and 
logistics supply chain, but I'm not aware----
    Mr. Johnson. Well, I have a memo that you signed, Mr. 
Secretary, on August 1st that explains VA's inability to meet 
certain acquisition goals. And to that end, you have seemingly 
prohibited the use of VA's national standardized contracts 
until the next fiscal year.
    This move has negatively impacted the care and services to 
veterans and requires that VA provide reasons why this is still 
occurring.
    Mr. Gould. I disagree that that has. And the memo to which 
you are referring, I assume, I have not seen it, has to do with 
small business.
    Every single individual on this panel knows that one of our 
goals, our socioeconomic goals is to open up that $17 billion 
supply chain at VA and get small business in the middle of it. 
And we are firmly committed to seeing $34 of every $100 spent 
to our small businesses. It means in your districts. It means 
the business owners that some of you have been in your lives 
depending on that opportunity. We are committed to opening it 
up.
    Mr. Johnson. Well----
    Mr. Gould. So that letter----
    Mr. Johnson. --the goals are not being met. Why would 
VA's----
    Mr. Gould. Sorry, sir.
    Mr. Johnson. --prosthetics and sensory aid service need a 
waiver for national contracts already vetted by the Small 
Business Administration, VA's Office of Small and Disadvantaged 
Business Utilization, and VA Form 2268? Isn't that a violation 
of VA's contracts with these vendors?
    Mr. Gould. No, it is not. Here is the goal that the 
secretary set for us a year ago. It is a simple one. It says 
$34 of every $100 in this massive VA system should be spent on 
small business. It should be done competitively. It should be 
done with an eye to value. One out of every three dollars. Over 
the year----
    Mr. Johnson. Let me ask you a question then. How many 
contracts over $3,000----
    Mr. Gould. May I complete my answer?
    Mr. Johnson. How many contracts over----
    Mr. Gould. Mr. Johnson, may I complete my answer?
    Mr. Johnson. I have got your answer.
    Mr. Gould. No. Actually, you do not have it.
    Mr. Chairman, may I complete the answer?
    Mr. Johnson. No. I have got five minutes----
    Mr. Gould. Sir----
    Mr. Johnson. --to ask questions, Mr. Gould.
    Mr. Gould. But, sir, I would like to answer the question 
and----
    Mr. Johnson. No. We will get back to you if we have a 
chance for you to finish that up.
    Mr. Gould. And at the end of the day----
    Mr. Johnson. I have got another question for you.
    Mr. Gould. --our goal is to----
    Mr. Johnson. How many contracts over $3,000--Mr. Gould, I 
am asking the questions. Okay? I am asking the questions. I 
have limited time. I do not have time for you to sit here and 
debate this.
    Mr. Gould. I am sorry. I thought you wanted a response.
    Mr. Johnson. Okay. Well, I got my response.
    Mr. Gould. All right.
    Mr. Johnson. How many contracts over $3,000 were approved 
versus those same contract values that were actually executed?
    Mr. Gould. We can provide that information for you in 
detail.
    Mr. Johnson. Okay. I would appreciate it if you do that.
    Of those total purchases over $3,000, how many went to 
small businesses and how many waivers were issued?
    Mr. Gould. I would be happy to provide that information for 
the record.
    Mr. Johnson. Okay. So you do not know a whole lot about 
this program, Mr. Gould. You came here, you know, to answer 
these questions and you have got to go back and look them up.
    But I appreciate that. I thank you for that.
    I think our veterans deserve better, but you and I differ 
on that.
    Mr. Gould. So do our small business owners.
    Mr. Johnson. Why did----
    Mr. Gould. They deserve an opportunity to participate----
    Mr. Johnson. Why did the VA fulfill, Mr. Gould, why did the 
VA fulfill----
    Mr. Gould. --which they have not had adequately at VA.
    Mr. Johnson. Mr. Gould, I am asking the questions. Okay?
    Mr. Gould. Go ahead.
    Mr. Johnson. Why did the VA only fulfill three percent of 
its August 2012 single patient one to five day order contracts 
that cost between $3,000 and $24,999? You got any idea?
    Mr. Gould. Perhaps, Mr. Johnson, you do.
    Mr. Johnson. No. I am asking the questions. You are 
supposed to have the answers. This is a program that you say is 
working so well. Why did VA only fulfill three percent of its 
August 2012 single patient one to five day order contracts that 
cost between $3,000 and $24,999?
    Mr. Gould. Mr. Johnson, our goal is to make small 
businesses----
    Mr. Johnson. Do you have an answer? How many?
    Mr. Gould. --have an opportunity----
    Mr. Johnson. That is a number.
    Mr. Gould. --to particulate.
    Mr. Johnson. How many? I am not worried about what your 
goal is. I know what your goal is.
    Mr. Gould. We do----
    Mr. Johnson. How many?
    Mr. Gould. --$17 billion worth of transactions a year.
    Mr. Johnson. How many did you fulfill?
    Mr. Gould. You would like to know specifically----
    Mr. Johnson. Yeah. I want to know how----
    Mr. Gould. --how many transactions under $3,000 were----
    Mr. Johnson. How many----
    Mr. Gould. --performed less than five----
    Mr. Johnson. Why did the VA only fulfill three percent of 
its August 2012 single patient one to five day order contracts 
that cost $3,000--between $3,000 and $24,999?
    Now, I can only assume, Mr. Chairman, that he does not 
know. And with that, I yield back the balance of my time.
    The Chairman. And, Mr. Secretary, if you will take it just 
for the record.
    Mr. Gould. We would be glad to.
    The Chairman. And we will move to Mr. Walz.
    Mr. Walz.
    Mr. Walz. I will yield my time to the deputy secretary if 
he wanted to finish where he was at before.
    Mr. Gould. Thank you so much, Mr. Walz.
    This is a commitment we have to open up a business 
opportunity at VA. It starts with a simple idea and a standard 
that small businesses and small businessmen and women across 
America have a challenge knocking down the door and doing 
business with the VA.
    So Secretary Shinseki established a goal early in the year, 
$34 out of every $100. We saw over the course of the year 
slight under-performance. We were 33.6 percent last year, $5.9 
billion. We wanted to be that good or better this year 
following a continuous improvement approach.
    And we issued memos and took action to make sure that our 
folks in the field knew and appreciated how much we were 
committed to achieving that goal.
    Thank you.
    Mr. Walz. Yeah, I appreciate it.
    And I would like to just follow-up on one thing. Dr. Roe, 
as he said, he initiated the Invisible Wounds Caucus and trying 
to bring all of us that we are all on the same team attitude. 
And it was very enlightening to me.
    And there was the clinician's perspective with Dr. Rudd who 
has testified here before and has extensive knowledge, I 
thought brought up a really interesting point. And I say this 
more as a statement to all of us as a question.
    Talking about how we talk about the suicides and things as 
this incredibly complex issue that cannot be solved. He said, 
in fact, it is not all that complex from a clinical perspective 
at all. The issue is cultural. The issue is access to the care, 
of asking for it and getting it.
    Once you get someone in front of a clinician or in front of 
someone who is there, we have very high success rates in 
elimination of that. So I think all of us need to go back and 
take a look at this.
    Mr. Deputy Secretary, I thought you brought up a very good 
point on this. We need to keep in mind that mental health 
parity, the Wellstone-Domenici Bill that was passed five years 
ago, HHS has yet to implement the rules on that.
    We are not implementing that on the civilian sector side 
and if we really want to get at the heart of this, the 
complexity lies in the bureaucracy and the culture of the 
delivery to the warriors as much as it is in those clinicians 
being there.
    So somehow we need to help to figure this out. And I think 
it is a fair point to be said we may add as many clinicians as 
you can possibly hire and we might not get to where we are 
going because of that part. And that troubles me in terms of 
caring for the warriors, but it troubles me in the money that 
we are going to spend.
    Are we attacking it from the right way? And I do not 
necessarily expect you to--it is more of a comment, Mr. Deputy 
Secretary, but if you have any insights on to that, I--because 
all of our goal is very clearly here reduce the number of 
suicides and provide opportunities for our veterans. Whatever 
it takes to get there, I am on board.
    And so this one really troubles me that I am not sure the 
facts support the way we are heading. So----
    Mr. Gould. Mr. Walz, thank you.
    We all are seized by the notion that one single person that 
commits suicide is too many both in the military and among our 
veteran community and the civilian community as a whole.
    Secretary Shinseki and Secretary Gates held the first ever 
integrated mental health conference. Suicide was a component of 
that. We are working hard together, closer than we ever have 
before.
    What we have to get into the fight in my view is the 
highest quality mental health system, integrated mental health 
system in America with over 20,000 folks turning up every day, 
great people who want to figure this out.
    We do understand that we do not have all the answers to 
your point. We have got to embrace research and development in 
this area. We have committed funds to that. We have got to be 
open to new ideas and we have got to make sure that we are 
working with our private sector providers to be able to augment 
our own care and capability.
    Mr. Walz. I think that is a great point. I think part of 
our responsibility is, we got folks, our veteran service 
organizations are deeply concerned that the core mission of the 
VA is maintained. And so when we start talking about this, it 
gets to be a little bit of scary territory for all of us as we 
are starting to talk about reaching out in new ways.
    But I do not see that traditionally the way we are going 
that we are going to get to where we want to go without that. 
And I think this is a place where we lead the civilian sector. 
This is a place in many cases where we go forward and start to 
show them how to deal with this.
    And I would just leave again with one comment. Thank you 
for all you are doing. I think I have said it time and time 
again. You just said it, Mr. Secretary. This is a zero sum 
proposition to our veterans, very, very difficult. We are not 
talking Six Sigma here. We are talking infinity on it because 
we cannot have one mistake. And that is just the nature of it.
    And I thank all of you who do this. And I have said it time 
and again, I will be your staunchest advocate, but your 
harshest critic when the time is due.
    The one thing I would just say from my perspective on this, 
and I think you have heard it echoed, anything you can do to 
try and provide the information in a more timely manner is 
helpful to us.
    If there is anything in Congress, this Committee takes its 
oversight responsibility very seriously and we also, I think, 
guard that legislative pejorative away from the Executive 
Branch. That separation of power is very important to the 
Members that are here.
    And I think that intentions get misconstrued when the 
information is not here regardless of what turns out in that 
information. Just a thought because I know it is helpful to me 
when I get it. And I know that the people are working very hard 
over there, but anything you can do to help with that would be 
helpful to us.
    Mr. Gould. Thank you, sir. I will do that. I appreciate 
that sentiment.
    I just want to comment personally that every day I come to 
this job, it is an honor and a privilege. I feel grateful for 
being in this role and grateful for 320,000 employees at VA who 
respond to those requests for information and are working hard 
to get it here. We have got to do better. We will. At the end 
of the day, it is our veterans that matter. That is why we are 
here.
    Mr. Walz. Thank you.
    The Chairman. Dr. Benishek.
    Mr. Benishek. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
    I am just a little bit concerned about this mental health 
problem and I just want to delve into it a little bit more. I 
do not quite understand some of the numbers. You mentioned that 
there was 13,000 people in the mental health staff and now 
there is 20,000.
    But in looking through the numbers, it seems to me that the 
VA had decided to hire 1,900 new personnel for mental health 
above the 1,500 that there are already vacant staffing 
positions and that according to this IG report that there was 
890 new mental health hires and there is still an estimated 
3,800 existing mental health vacancies within the VA.
    So what is the plan? I mean, is there an overall plan of 
hiring and, you know, is there a plan for, you know, finding 
places for these people to be at?
    And I wish you would just give me a quick overview of what 
the plan is because it seems to me that you have not achieved 
any of these goals. And, you know, you talk about all these 
goals, but not achieving them does not seem good. What's the 
plan?
    Mr. Gould. Thank you for that question.
    I am really pleased to be able to say that since that IG 
report came out, I do not dispute the facts, you know, that VA 
concurred in the recommendations and analysis. Based on that, 
our internal review and analysis supplemented by the IG's 
analysis, we went out and put a plan in place.
    We are proceeding on plan to be able to hire those 
individuals.
    Mr. Benishek. All right. Okay.
    Mr. Gould. And we also included the vacancies to which you 
are referring.
    Mr. Benishek. Could you please forward the plan to the 
Committee so we can take a look at it?
    Mr. Gould. Sir, we would be happy to do that.
    Mr. Benishek. All right. I also have some other information 
here that recently there was a VA follow-up study of the 
national cohort of Gulf War and Gulf War era veterans that was 
done and apparently did not have a mental health professional 
on the survey team. And, you know, some people who are 
identified to have mental health problems, you know, they were 
not followed up upon.
    So I would like you to, and I am sure you do not know the 
answer to that today, but could you please provide us with 
that----
    Mr. Gould. Certainly.
    Mr. Benishek. --answer as well to the Committee? Do you 
have a time estimate to determine when you think you are going 
to have all these hires done?
    Mr. Gould. Yes. As you have seen, the President's Executive 
Order has come out, tasked us with additional hiring. We are on 
track to have these individuals hired by the end of the year. 
And so as we----
    Mr. Benishek. There is 3,800 existing mental health 
vacancies that will be filled by the end of the year?
    Mr. Gould. The 1,900 to which the Chairman referred, 1,600 
mental health and 300 support staff, those 1,900 will be hired 
by the end of the year. We are confident of that. We are on 
track.
    As I mentioned earlier, 75 people being hired per week. We 
think that that will happen. We are committed to that. We will 
report to this Committee on that issue. We are confident that 
we will meet that requirement.
    Mr. Benishek. So you think this number is adequate then 
because I understand that you have to evaluate a veteran within 
14 days?
    Mr. Gould. As I said earlier, this is a demand driven 
system. So we have evaluated that demand has grown and we are 
adding additional people into the fight.
    Do I know if more people will show up and we will need 
more? We may. And we are prepared to make that investment and 
required.
    What matters here most is making sure that our veterans get 
the mental health care that they need.
    Mr. Benishek. All right. What is the main obstacle to 
reducing veterans' homelessness?
    Mr. Gould. That is a great question. It is certainly true 
that the causes of veterans' homelessness are many and 
intertwined. I would say that the biggest causes are substance 
abuse and a loss of a job. There are many, many other factors.
    Our homeless team has deployed in such a way that we are 
successfully reducing the amount of veteran homelessness in the 
country. Twelve points last year on the HUD point in time count 
clearly shows that we are heading in the right direction and we 
are deploying the enormous resources that we have to do two 
things.
    One is rescue people who are homeless now. That is terribly 
important. We see individuals on the street every day. We know. 
Our hearts go out to them. We want to rescue. But our role is 
to also prevent.
    And our system is such that when someone is on the edge, we 
have the ability with respect to health care, mental health, 
economic support, training and education, voc rehab to pull 
that person back from the brink.
    And that idea of preventing homelessness is foremost in our 
mind. We are going to continue to need to do it after we 
eliminate veterans' homelessness in 2015.
    Mr. Benishek. Mr. Gould, I look forward to your future 
responses. Thank you.
    Mr. Gould. Thank you very much.
    The Chairman. If I could ask one question because I am 
confused on the number of mental health providers. The number 
that the President referred to was 1,900 additional and you 
said, I think, 1,600 were clinicians, support 400 or whatever 
the number.
    Is that in addition to the 1,500 that were already vacant 
at the time because I was led to believe through testimony, and 
I am trying to find it now, that the answer was yes which would 
mean that we had a deficit at that point of 3,500 or whatever 
the number? So which is it? Is it 3,500 or less than that?
    Mr. Gould. No, Mr. Chairman, your understanding is correct. 
It is two things happening at one time. There are vacancies in 
the system and this turn in the system, in fact, people 
transferring from one place to another.
    We obviously would not want to count that as a new hire. 
That is somebody moving from, you know, Massachusetts to 
Florida. All right? So it would be inappropriate for us to kind 
of double count those.
    And we have the specific positions that we published, 
listed, and are tracking on a spreadsheet. That is the 1,900, 
300 administrative support, 1,600 mental health professionals.
    We want the time of those mental health professionals to be 
leveraged. They should not be doing the scheduling and admin 
support. So those two together comprise the 1,900.
    We are tracking the 1,900. We are going to fill those on 
time, on budget consistent with our commitment here, and we are 
also looking to hire and fill these additional positions.
    Mr. Chairman, the net effect of that will be many more 
mental health professionals hired than just the 1,600 that I 
mentioned. But for tracking purposes, we want to keep those 
separate.
    The Chairman. So you are tracking the hires but not the 
vacancies or at least the numbers you are providing now are the 
hires?
    Mr. Gould. We are tracking both and, sir, we thought your 
interest was focused on the 1,900.
    The Chairman. It is, but----
    Mr. Gould. So we are able to report on that. If you want us 
to report on the other----
    The Chairman. Can you tell me?
    Mr. Gould. --we can do that.
    The Chairman. Do you know what the vacancies are? I have a 
number here and it is a little staggering, but can you give me 
what your number is, see if it----
    Mr. Gould. Sir, I would be glad to provide you----
    The Chairman. Here is the number that I have and let's see 
if it matches, but 3,833 existing and new mental health 
vacancies. And, again, that is a number that I have.
    Can you help me quantify that number? And you do not have 
to do it now because Ms. Brown has some questions. But if you 
would take that for the record.
    Mr. Gould. We will be glad to do that.
    The Chairman. We do have an idea because, I was concerned 
at one time there may be double counting, that you were 
counting new hires that were creating a vacancy. And, again, I 
do not know if that is occurring or not.
    But I think the important thing is that, if you are talking 
about 75 persons a week, but if you have a natural attrition 
of, 20 a week or whatever that number is, we are sliding 
backwards again in our total number. So if you can just take 
that for the record.
    And let me go ahead and yield to Ms. Brown for her 
questions.
    Mr. Gould. Sir, we will do that, provide the information. I 
think you will be happy to know the management team is focused 
on the combination of those two numbers, the 1,900 plus these 
vacancies together, a very big number, very aggressive. We will 
be pleased to provide that information to you. And as I said, 
we believe we are on track.
    The Chairman. All right. Thank you.
    Ms. Brown. Mr. Gould, first of all, I want to thank you for 
your service and let you know that all the Members, if you have 
anything that you wanted to say, I want to give you an 
opportunity to say it before I ask my questions, when you were 
interrupted.
    Mr. Gould. Ma'am, I so appreciate that. Again, I say, and I 
think, really, is coming out here at this hearing, an 
opportunity for a balanced presentation of our many 
accomplishments even as we acknowledge how much more work we 
need to do, just at a very high level how proud we are about 
the 800,000 new people who are in school. When you think about 
that, that is eight years of the student population of all the 
students at Florida State University, Ohio State University, 
Virginia Tech. It is an enormous number. It is $21 billion into 
the education industry. Pretty significant.
    Ms. Brown. Sir, let me just tell you I want to thank you.
    When we passed that program, I was so impressed. And then I 
was home and I was watching the television and the veterans was 
complaining about the program. I thought we were going to get 
all hugs and kisses, but we got that program up in operation 
and people are happy now.
    But initially we had not gotten our payment. We have not 
gotten our housing. But it was something that had to be worked 
out with the universities and the VA.
    And thank you so much for getting it done.
    Mr. Gould. Yes, ma'am. Thank you.
    I think this is our next greatest generation. This package 
is like the World War II era and there is a million people in 
school, 800,000 on GI Bill. They are going to be our future 
doctors and lawyers and engineers and accountants and they are 
going to make this country grow.
    Ms. Brown. I have a letter. I went to California and I 
visited the units that we did jointly with California. It is 
four units, 100 per unit, 400 units of housing that is brand 
new, fabulous facility, and sitting there empty. And I have a 
real concern. I know that we built it. Sixty percent of our 
money. Taxpayers cannot figure out, well, this is not the 
Federal Government. This is the state.
    And in the letter that you sent me back or somebody sent me 
back saying, well, it is California. But if there is any way 
that we can work it out, if we need legislation, because 
basically 400 units should not be sitting a couple of years 
waiting for California to get money to operate it. It should be 
some way that we could partner with somebody to get--I mean, 
400 brand new units and we are talking about the homeless. It 
does not make any sense to me.
    Mr. Gould. Yes, ma'am.
    Ms. Brown. And government should work for the people. It is 
all taxpayers' dollars.
    Mr. Gould. And just a pragmatic view about if you have got 
400 units of housing ready to go, let's see how we can make 
that final, get that final yard. Often we find ourselves in a 
situation where we will have grant money and a state given the 
economic downturn will not be able to meet that. That is 
happening in several locations.
    There is also a program that this Committee knows well, the 
Enhanced Use Lease Program which we desperately want. You know 
that we lost that authority in the prior year. It created 4,000 
beds for homeless. In the system, we would very much like the 
Committee to consider taking that up and working to make that 
happen. It was a wonderful tool and we have lost it.
    Ms. Brown. Yes, sir. And the other question, one of the 
Members asked about being able to go on-line and get their 
information. As you develop a system, I know the safeguards we 
have to put in with the technology. I am not a technology 
person, but we have had some incidents where people have even 
gone into banking and stolen identities.
    So as we develop this complicated system, we have got to 
ensure that we protect our supporters, the people we are trying 
to get the information to.
    Mr. Gould. Yes, ma'am. One of the key components of our IT 
architecture at VA is cyber security and being able to protect 
personally identified information. That system from various 
sources like all agencies in government is under attack.
    We now have visibility down to the desktop level and the 
device level to be able to prevent those kinds of intrusions. 
Our CIO, Roger Baker, is working hard on that and we are very 
committed to making sure that we protect our digital 
information.
    Ms. Brown. And the last question pertaining to minority and 
women-owned businesses and you were talking a little bit about 
how you are going to make sure that minorities and female-owned 
businesses get included. In addition, when we put out that RFP, 
why don't we make sure we include hiring of veterans?
    Mr. Gould. Yes, ma'am. As I said earlier, we are trying to 
open up the number of people who can participate and that those 
dollars get right into the economy. They build small businesses 
where 50 percent of the jobs are in America. Our secretary is 
committed to make that happen.
    The memo that I signed that Mr. Johnson mentioned was an 
effort to make sure we met our commitments. It does not prevent 
big business from doing business with VA. That is the other, 
you know, 65 percent of the dollar flow, but it does make that 
concrete, measurable, and specific effort to welcome into our 
business opportunities small businesses, veteran-owned service-
disabled.
    That is what we are about. We have just got to be able to 
do that. And that is why we have worked so hard in the final 
months of the fiscal year to make sure that we got every last 
step of the way.
    Ms. Brown. Well, once again, thank you for your service and 
thank the VA for the job that they do.
    Mr. Gould. Thank you, ma'am.
    The Chairman. Piggybacking on what Ms. Brown just asked, 
and you may have the answer, you may not, this is kind of 
outside a lot of what we are talking about today, but at 
Orlando, we know there are some delays with the construction of 
the hospital. But there are some buildings that are complete.
    When we did a field hearing down there a few weeks ago, 
questions were asked in regards to the ability to activate the 
domiciliary and the nursing home and the facilities that were 
ready to go. We were told that we would look at those. There 
was a way that it could be done.
    Do you have a status for the Committee and if you do not, 
if you could take that for the record too?
    Mr. Gould. Mr. Chairman, I will take that for the record. I 
can tell you that we appreciate your leadership on this issue.
    One of our, you know, requirements is that we get value and 
we do it in a transparent way. We have worked hard with this 
vendor. We believe that we can still have that facility 
delivered by summer of 2013. Our third-party advisors tell us 
that that is possible.
    We just need to see hammers swinging and folks showing up 
to make this happen. It is incredibly important for our 
veterans in the Orlando area. We want to get it done. And I 
will be glad to provide additional information to you, Mr. 
Chairman, that can flush out where----
    The Chairman. I think this Committee would want to see any 
facility that is complete activated as quickly as possible. And 
I know that that would be a goal of yours too.
    I would ask in all respect for transparency that in regards 
to the timeline that you think that the facility can be 
completed, if you would share the information, how that was 
determined with the contractor that exists now.
    I have heard comments from them that they are not being 
afforded the ability to double check those numbers and see how 
they were made. I think everybody is trying to fix an existing 
situation and as long as communication lines remain open, I 
think that we are going to see a fabulous facility when it is 
finally completed.
    And, again, if you would do that as well.
    And with that, I would recognize Mr. Huelskamp.
    Mr. Gould. Mr. Chairman----
    The Chairman. Yes, sir.
    Mr. Gould. --I will do that. And, sir, I would like to just 
qualify that. Since we have issued a cure notice, there are 
some set of legal restrictions that may impede my ability to 
share that with you immediately, but we will certainly do that 
and respect your request.
    The Chairman. Is that the original cure notice or an 
additional cure notice?
    Mr. Gould. The original cure notice.
    The Chairman. Okay. That's still hanging out there?
    Mr. Gould. Well, once the cure notice is out, there are 
certain things that the vendor has a chance to do and/or 
produce. We have certain restrictions on what information we 
can share the other way. It gets a little bit of an arm's 
length process. You can understand transparent focus----
    The Chairman. But you do understand, and I thank you, but 
you are before this Committee making commitments that you feel 
like the facility can be finished by the summer of next year.
    Mr. Gould. Yes.
    The Chairman. And, again, obviously the contractor is not 
here to be able to defend their position as well. We all want 
it to be finished as quickly as possible, but I think it is 
only fair that if you are going to make public statements 
regarding the completion of that project and you are going to 
say that the contractor should be able to finish it based on a 
timeline that they did not develop, now you are going off a 
third-party vendor.
    I understand the Army Corps is now looking at the timeline 
as well or were being asked to do that. And I understand. And, 
again, I am a little confused on the cure situation because I 
thought we were passed that. Obviously you are saying that we 
are not.
    But, Mr. Huelskamp.
    Mr. Gould. Thank you, sir.
    Mr. Huelskamp. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
    And, Mr. Gould, I would like to talk a little bit about VA 
spending. In your testimony, you did mention there has been at 
least one recent concern where it was called into question. Of 
course, there are a number of other instances as well beyond 
the HR conferences in Orlando last summer.
    You have got some of the issue about senior VA employees 
receiving thousands of dollars in bonuses, national golden 
games issue in Hawaii last year which is more than double or 
triple the cost of games in previous years.
    And obviously when we are looking at our Nation and some 
pretty dire straits financially, we want to make certain every 
single spare dollar at the VA goes to veterans' care and not 
some of these other spending issues.
    I did send you a request for some information about last 
year's VA conferences more than five weeks ago. When do we 
expect a response on that?
    I know in your testimony, you talk about delivering data by 
the forklift. All we wanted is a very limited set of 
information from last year. When we will get a response? I know 
the Committee has asked for some information as well.
    Mr. Gould. Sir, I would be glad to provide that information 
for the record. We have got your request and we will certainly 
respond to it.
    Mr. Huelskamp. The question is when? It has been five 
weeks. The data is over a year old. The data is spent. The 
money has gone out the door. The question is how much did you 
spend on those conferences and when will I expect a response?
    Mr. Gould. If you will allow me to go back and find out the 
answer to your question, I will do that, sir, and get you a 
firm date.
    Mr. Huelskamp. And that is what bothers me is we do not 
have the information. We do not have a firm date. You have your 
CFO right there. This is dollars that were already spent. You 
have already put the dollars out the door. How much did we 
spend on that conference?
    And, Mr. Grams, maybe you can share what is the problem 
finding the data? Is there mismanagement? Is the data not there 
yet? Is it not in the system? And that is what is troubling.
    Mr. Gould. And I do apologize. I am sorry. I thought you 
were asking me a question about--at one point, you asked about 
SES bonuses. But your question is actually to conferences at 
Orlando. And I agree with you that Mr. Grams would be a great 
resource to answer that question.
    Mr. Grams. Congressman, my understanding is that what you 
are talking about, the conference cost has been submitted to 
the Committee. So we have got a communication issue here. I 
need to go back and check on that. I came up here today 
believing you had that information.
    I know last year, we talked here at the Committee. We spent 
last year about $100 million on conferences. I believe you had 
asked for a further breakout of that figure. And as I said, we 
came here believing you had that information. But we will go 
back and find out where it is.
    Mr. Huelskamp. Well, in addition to the----
    The Chairman. Will the gentleman yield?
    Mr. Huelskamp. Yes, Mr. Chairman.
    The Chairman. Real quickly because I asked. I wrote a 
letter to the Secretary along with the Ranking Member, Mr. 
Filner, in August, August 16th. We have not received a response 
from that particular inquiry.
    And, again, within that letter, there was the conflict 
between the original testimony of $20 million a year and then 
subsequent testimony that you provided that was $100 million. 
We were asking for, help us rectify those two numbers and bring 
them together. But we have not received that I am aware of any 
response in regards to those numbers.
    Mr. Grams. If it would help, can I explain that difference 
now?
    The Chairman. Yes.
    Mr. Grams. Okay.
    The Chairman. And if you would, freeze the clock.
    Mr. Grams. Sure. The difference between the $100 million 
and the--I mentioned the $100 million to you when I was up here 
last November. My understanding is you were then submitted a 
figure of $20 million a few months after that.
    As a general rule, it does not apply to every conference, 
but as a general rule in the VA, about 80 percent of the cost 
of an average conference is for travel to take the employees to 
that conference so that they can attend.
    The difference is that the $100 million figure I gave you 
is all inclusive. You asked me how much we spent, so I gave you 
a number that reflected what I believe was all the costs 
involved in the conferences that we did last year.
    The $20 million figure you were given was a different 
interpretation of the core costs of the conferences which 
excluded travel. And that is roughly that 80 percent difference 
for most conferences that goes to travel.
    Mr. Huelskamp. I appreciate that. I also had requested a 
list of all the attendees. Obviously that clearly has not been 
received of who attended that conference.
    I also asked you more recently some information about the 
golden games. It is interesting you mention 80 percent of the 
cost of events is travel. There is a $1 million expenditure for 
an event planner and for the golden games in Hawaii. It is 
interesting the golden games in Hawaii according to the 
information on a governmental Web site, it was double or triple 
the cost of previous golden games in the mainland.
    And when do I expect an answer for those questions, 
especially that $1 million cost for an event planner because I 
thought you did that in-house? So your response on that?
    Mr. Gould. Sir, if I might, the issue to which the 
congressman is referring is the world's largest rehabilitative 
event. I am sure some of you have been to see these before. You 
know what goes on there. They are extraordinary opportunities 
for rehabilitation. They are opportunities for individuals to 
demonstrate to others who thought they might never walk again 
or compete again to do so, 55 and over.
    Several years ago in 2007, we received a request from the 
governor of Hawaii, Linda Lingle, and also Senator Akaka who 
had his last Chairman's meeting just the other day in the 
Senate both wrote letters to VA, expressed a desire to hold the 
games there.
    What we saw was an opportunity since these are largely 
Vietnam veterans to bring them through the point of debarkation 
for the Pacific where they fought and served our country for--
--
    Mr. Huelskamp. Mr. Gould, I am about out of time. When can 
I expect a response, especially given that----
    Mr. Gould. We certainly can----
    Mr. Huelskamp. --Hawaii golden games and then you hired 
somebody in Alaska for $1 million as the event planner?
    Mr. Gould. Yes.
    Mr. Huelskamp. And so I appreciate a response. And quickly 
on that in reference, this is financial data that is over a 
year old in some of the questions from the Chairman. And that 
data should be readily available and should be made readily 
available, I think, to the Committee and to myself as well.
    So thank you, Mr. Chairman. I yield back.
    The Chairman. Thank you. Thank you very much.
    I have a couple more questions that we will just go ahead 
and submit for the record. Thank you for your time.
    I would like to briefly touch on the Haley Medical Center 
issue in regards to the taping of a patient and their family in 
a room without their consent using a covert camera. And it 
appears that we at the Committee are loggerheads now legally 
with the interpretations that are being provided.
    My question is, do you think that it is appropriate to 
videotape somebody in their private hospital room without their 
consent because that is what happened at Haley?
    I know what the background is, but this was not a camera 
that is like any of these cameras in this room. This was a 
camera that was disguised as a smoke detector. And so I would 
like to know if you have any information that you can provide 
in regards to where we are at this point.
    Mr. Gould. Mr. Chairman, thank you.
    We obviously place the highest priority on delivering high-
quality, safe medical care to our veterans. We have actually 
two kinds of observation systems in VA. One is a traditional 
surveillance system. We cover nurses leaving parking lots late 
at night to get their car, main areas----
    The Chairman. I understand and the Committee understands. I 
want to talk specifically about a video camera that was hidden 
inside of a smoke detector.
    Mr. Gould. We do not believe that the camera was hidden. We 
believe that the family was informed. A sign was placed in the 
room and posted.
    This patient who was comatose and on a ventilator had to be 
watched, a medical standard of direct line of sight. We could 
not have a nurse sit in the room with that individual. Imagine 
the impact on privacy there.
    What we had was a nurse monitoring a camera----
    The Chairman. But you do----
    Mr. Gould. --in the room.
    The Chairman. Excuse me. You do do one-on-one patient 
monitoring; do you not?
    Mr. Gould. Where it makes sense to do so, we do.
    The Chairman. Where does it make sense to do so? With a 
comatose patient, that would not make sense?
    Mr. Gould. So imagine a comatose patient how unusual any 
movement would be. They are completely unable to communicate or 
talk with their care provider. What you need to see is a----
    The Chairman. If the patient cannot communicate, then who 
does communicate, their family. Okay.
    Mr. Gould. That is correct.
    The Chairman. So here are the facts as I understand them. A 
covert camera, hidden inside of a smoke detector and that is 
not disputed, that is exactly what took place, was installed 
without notice or consent of the family of the patient.
    Now, claims have been made that notice was given after it 
was installed. That is what was told to me by the director 
herself of the center. But there was no requirement for 
consent. And subsequent to that, we have now found out that it 
was not just monitoring. It was also taping what was going on 
in the room.
    And so my question is, where are we now because I have been 
told that VA is now coming up with a policy how to deal with 
that?
    I also understand, and if it is your testimony that that is 
an appropriate way to monitor a patient, why was the camera 
taken down because it is not there?
    Mr. Gould. Well, the patient has transferred to another 
facility at this point.
    The Chairman. I know they have been transferred, but prior 
to the transfer, the camera was removed.
    Mr. Gould. There is no doubt in my mind that front-line 
staff were under extraordinary stress, that relationships 
between the family and the front-line medical staff were 
strained.
    I can imagine that all kinds of emotional content were 
involved in this set of decisions. But as physicians, as 
medical care providers, what our absolute number one priority 
is, is the security and safety of our patients.
    To accomplish that in this instance, we believe that having 
a camera placed on a comatose patient with a ventilator was the 
appropriate way to render care safely and securely in that 
environment.
    In my belief, it eliminates the possibility that a nurse is 
going to leave the room. It allows for that seven by 24 hour 
care.
    And, Mr. Chairman, I also understand that we have a large 
amount of information that has been delivered to your 
Committee, to the staff on this issue. We are ready to 
disclose, provide what information is needed to get to the 
bottom of this.
    But my position is here in testimony that our number one 
priority is safety and security of patients. We accomplished it 
with that camera. And that is how this patient was cared for 
during the time that they were comatose, unable to respond or 
communicate their desires to our staff other than having that 
seven by 24 hour observation device on them.
    The Chairman. Okay. We will agree to disagree because I 
guess common sense where I come from would say just put up a 
camera. If you are going to put a camera up, just put a camera 
up where people can see it. For some reason, somebody made the 
decision to hide the camera. It was installed without notice. 
It was installed without consent.
    What is interesting to me, and I am not an attorney, is 
that there is a claim that consent is not required within a VA 
facility. And, again, the family tried many times to draw 
attention to the fact that they did not give consent.
    And while this is small in comparison to a $140 billion 
budget, it is not to the family nor to the patient. And we will 
continue to move forward.
    I just thank you for the update. I did receive the update 
that the patient had been transferred and I know that that was 
something that the family had desired to move him closer to 
their own home facility.
    And with that, Mr. Stutzman.
    Mr. Stutzman. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
    And thank you, Mr. Gould, for being here and your service 
as deputy secretary.
    My question is regarding oversight of contractors. And my 
understanding is that the VA inspector general works to provide 
oversight with regard to these contractors and has reviewed 
hundreds of CBOC clinics resulting in important corrective 
actions.
    My question relates to the bad actors or contractors 
providing care to our veterans in a clinic who may have 
systematic deficiencies that result in poor care.
    What do VA contractor officers do in review of bids to 
determine if a bidder has these systematic problems?
    Mr. Gould. Thank you.
    Obviously we reach out and get a lot of our services and 
products from the private sector, about $17 billion. One of the 
things that our contractors do is when they award on a 
competitive basis, they do something called evaluating prior 
performance.
    So in a folder, and they call folks when they evaluate 
prior performance and other agencies and say how did this 
person do, they look to evaluate electronically whether they 
performed their duties appropriately and that is a factor that 
goes into the qualification of a contractor in rendering 
services.
    We do not always get it right and sometimes contractors 
work to hide that information from the VA, but our folks are 
committed to making that kind of assessment and make sure we 
have got good quality providers working in VA.
    Mr. Stutzman. So if a bad actor seeks a bid in a new VISN 
where it is not currently operating, what steps, if any, does 
the VA contractor officers take to research the bidder against 
the inspector general's reports, media reports, or VSO reports? 
Are contracting officers supposed to check to see if the VA IOG 
has significant concerns regarding the CBOC contractor?
    Mr. Gould. We are working to make sure that that process 
works properly in several different ways. One is making sure 
that the individuals who are making that decision are trained 
and certified to do it. And we put an enormous amount of energy 
and effort in making sure that that has happened over the last 
three years.
    New technology, the Electronic Contract Management System, 
so called ECMS, and lastly an enterprise data system that 
allows us to for the first time understand who has purchased 
what for what purpose and where in our organization for 95 
percent of our buy in a day's time.
    So the monitoring systems that we have strengthened go 
directly to your issue of making sure that information is 
shared, that things like prior performance are known.
    Mr. Stutzman. Do you have any report on the monitoring 
process or what results you are seeing?
    Mr. Gould. I would be glad to provide that information for 
you on the record, sir. If you are aware of any report or 
additional information that you would like to bring to my 
attention, I would be pleased to----
    Mr. Stutzman. Okay. If you could provide an update, that 
would be helpful.
    Mr. Gould. Thank you.
    Mr. Stutzman. All right. With that, Mr. Chairman, I will 
yield back the balance of my time.
    The Chairman. Mr. Turner.
    Mr. Turner. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
    I can only say as a veteran and my brief work here on the 
Veterans' Committee, I think the VA does a pretty good job. Our 
job here, as you know, is oversight and to find fault. And we 
will continue to do that. And you continue to do a good job and 
we will meet in between.
    Thank you. Yield back.
    The Chairman. Thank you very much.
    Mr. Gould. Mr. Turner, on behalf of the 320,000 employees 
at VA, thank you for that comment.
    The Chairman. Ms. Brown, any questions?
    Ms. Brown. No. I am finished for today. Thank you very 
much.
    The Chairman. Thank you very much.
    Mr. Gould, thank you.
    Mr. Grams, thank you very much for being here.
    All Members will have five legislative days to revise and 
extend their comments.
    And with that, this hearing is adjourned.
    Mr. Gould. Thank you.

    [Whereupon, at 11:54 a.m., the Committee was adjourned.]



                            A P P E N D I X

                              ----------                              

               Prepared Statement of Chairman Jeff Miller
    Good morning, and welcome to today's Full Committee hearing 
Entitled, ``Veterans Affairs in the 112th Congress: Reviewing VA's 
Performance and Accountability.''
    VA is to be commended for some of the areas we will examine today. 
For example, the number of homeless veterans is declining. VA reports 
that on any given night, the number of homeless veterans has fallen 
from 76,000 in 2009, to 67,500 in the latest report in 2011. We have to 
sustain that effort and address root causes of homelessness, but at 
present, I am pleased that the goal of ending homelessness by 2015 is 
within reach.
    Also on the Positive side, the default rates on VA guaranteed loans 
continue to be lower than non-VA backed loans. Given the turmoil in the 
housing market, the success VA has had in keeping veterans in their 
homes is laudable.
    Finally, I would like to congratulate VA on the aggressive manner 
in which it prepared for and promoted the Veterans Retraining 
Assistance Program, or ``VRAP,'' part of our effort to reduce veteran 
unemployment. With the VOW Act's goal to retrain 99,000 veterans using 
the Montgomery GI Bill, as of Tuesday, VA had received 58,432 
applications and approved 45,205.
    So, VA, keep up the good work.
    Despite these successes, progress isn't being made fast enough, or 
at all, in other key areas. On the important issue of mental health 
care, too many veterans either do not seek assistance or are unable to 
get VA care in a timely manner. As a result, access to mental health 
care is in crisis.
    In April, the VA Inspector General released a report finding that 
more than half of the veterans who seek mental health care through VA 
wait fifty days - that's five-zero days - on average - to receive an 
evaluation. These are men and women who have taken the brave and 
difficult step of seeking help - and they are waiting too long to 
receive it.
    Interestingly, just days before the IG report was released, VA made 
a surprise announcement that it would be increasing mental health staff 
by 1,900. It is undoubtedly important to ensure proper staff are in 
place to meet the increasing demand for mental health care.
    But, here's the problem: there are already almost 1,500 mental 
health professional vacancies in the VA system which means that 1,900 
new hires equates to a net gain of 400. As of mid-July, VA had hired 
less than 900 employees as part of this effort. Follow-up requests by 
Committee staff for additional information have gone unanswered.
    Meanwhile, data continues to show that eighteen veterans per day 
commit suicide, and five of those were receiving VA care at the time of 
their death.
    We must do much better.
    Another area of continued concern is the backlog of disability 
claims. Notwithstanding pledges by VA officials that we're about to 
``turn the corner,'' the backlog has steadily increased throughout the 
past two years. At the beginning of this Congress, the number of 
pending claims was 764, 476, with 39.4% pending for more than 125 days. 
As of this month, that total number of claims pending increased to 
897,767, with 66.4% pending over 125 days.
    The Department's refrain has been that overall production is over 
one million claims annually, and that the Agent Orange claims presented 
a challenge, but the simple fact remains that more claims continue to 
be filed than processed with no end in sight. Although this 
administration has promised that the backlog will be eliminated by 2015 
and that claims will be processed with 98% accuracy by that time, quite 
frankly, I am worried about whether this goal remains realistic.
    In addition, the Committee has frequently been told that VBA's 
transformation plan is the answer to these problems. Although we 
certainly commend VA for realizing that comprehensive changes are 
required to bring VBA into the 21st century, the Committee has yet to 
see an actual plan, in writing, with clear benchmarks and deadlines. We 
have yet to see this plan despite making three separate requests, both 
during hearings and in writing, which have all gone unanswered. I would 
like to continue working with the Department on bringing VA into the 
21st century, and we will best be able to do so by being provided with 
a written copy of the transformation plan.
    Finally, although VA has been more fortunate than other agencies in 
the resources it has received in this tight economic climate, the 
bureaucracy has helped itself to those resources rather than channeling 
them to direct services for veterans.
    VA's Senior Executive Service (SES) bonus program continues to 
average nearly $4 million in annual payouts, with no apparent 
correlation between these bonuses and agency performance.
    The Committee is also addressing the issue of lavish conference 
expenditures. I and Ranking Member Filner sent a letter to VA over a 
month ago asking for detail of how over $100 million dollars was spent 
in 2011 on conferences, and we've received no response.
    The government was on the verge of both a shutdown and default last 
year. Thus, the fact that VA cannot describe how over $100 million 
dollars was spent is outrageous. Despite promises of better fiscal 
stewardship from the administration, these are glaring examples of 
serious shortcomings that need to be fixed.
    There is more I could have touched on in this statement, but I'll 
wait for questioning. We have a lot of ground to cover today, and we 
look forward to hearing from the VA panel on these important topics.

                                 
               Prepared Statement of Hon. Corrine Brown, 
                    Acting Ranking Democratic Member
    Mr. Chairman, I appreciate you holding this hearing on the VA's 
performance and accountability during the 112th Congress.
    I look forward to finding out from the VA the progress it has made 
in addressing concerns raised by this Committee. I also look forward to 
hearing from the Deputy Secretary how, in his view, the VA has become 
able to meet its responsibilities to provide health care and benefits 
to our veterans.
    I believe this is an important point that we should not forget: for 
all the faults we find with how the VA operates, at the end of the day 
it is providing services and benefits to millions of veterans and their 
families. Because the VA generally does a good job, it makes it even 
more important that it proactively address problems that arise the 
hinder the VA's ability to assist veterans.
    Sometimes it is easy to forget that our role is to provide needed 
oversight to the VA. In the final analysis, we are all in this 
together, working hard to take care of our veterans.
    So I look forward to the Deputy Secretary's update on how the 
oversight concerns raised by this Committee have been addressed, how 
the VA is better today than it was yesterday, and what improvements and 
actions we should look forward to in the future.

                                 
                Prepared Statement of Hon. Russ Carnahan
    I would like to thank Chairman Miller, Ranking Member Filner, and 
Members of the Committee for holding this hearing. I want to begin by 
recognizing the efforts of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and 
congratulating them on their successes in the past year. Two VA 
campaigns, The Veterans Crisis Line and Make the Connection, have been 
particularly noteworthy, consequently earning forty-three awards for 
excellence. Another case between the VA and the Department of Housing 
and Urban Development reduced veterans' homelessness by 12% and won the 
distinguished Samuel J. Heyman Citizens Service Medal. The VA has even 
committed $28 billion to finding homeless veterans homes that they have 
a chance at keeping, affecting 25 states across the Nation, including 
my home state, Missouri.
    In summary, we have done well for our veterans, but now, sixty 
years after the establishment of the VA, we must renew our commitment 
to provide the men and women who have served our country in uniform 
with the health care services they have earned. Our troops are 
committed to protecting our freedom, and our commitment to them does 
not end when they return home.
    The VA offers health care treatment and services to our Nation's 
veterans who suffer from service-related physical or mental 
disabilities. While the diagnosis of physical injuries typically is 
made before or shortly after separation from the military, mental 
illnesses may not manifest themselves until years later. As the United 
States military and the VA continue to improve treatment for those who 
have served, there remains a gap for veterans struggling with mental 
illnesses.
    The frequency of possible diagnosis for mental health disorders is 
estimated at 43.7 percent of Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi 
Freedom veterans who have received Veterans Administration treatment. I 
encourage you to protect veterans' rights to mental health care 
treatment and services by supporting the Veterans Mental Health 
Accessibility Act.
    Currently, Afghanistan and Iraq veterans face a five year window in 
which they must seek treatment for mental illnesses before losing their 
higher priority status. Veterans from previous wars face harsher 
bureaucratic obstacles. The Veterans Mental Health Accessibility Act, 
which I introduced last March, would eliminate the five year window and 
give veterans who served in combat from all military operations the 
ability to seek treatment for service-connected mental illnesses, 
regardless of when their conditions manifest themselves. This bill 
would make the services and treatments that are available to 
Afghanistan and Iraq veterans available to all veterans who have served 
in combat in previous military operations such as the Second World War, 
the Korean War, and Vietnam. I urge the members on this Committee who 
are not already cosponsors of the bill to take action now.
    It is our responsibility to care for the veterans who have defended 
our Nation, and our continuing duty to prepare for the return of our 
soldiers still abroad.
    I hope today's hearing will shed some light on ways that we can 
work together to guarantee our service men and women have the support 
they need and deserve.

                                 
               Prepared Statement of Hon. W. Scott Gould
    Chairman Miller, Ranking Member Filner, and Distinguished Members 
of the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs: thank you for the 
opportunity to be with you today to discuss the Department of Veterans 
Affairs' (VA) accomplishments and challenges.
    I am accompanied by W. Todd Grams, Executive in Charge for the 
Office of Management and Chief Financial Officer. I want to thank the 
Committee for its ongoing partnership in our common commitment to serve 
our Nation's Veterans. We appreciate your support - especially the 
continued robust funding that is required to meet the growing needs of 
our Veterans. Our highest priority is to care for those who have borne 
the battle, their families, and their survivors.
    As the 112th Congress draws to a conclusion, we welcome the 
opportunity to report on the challenges we have faced, the lessons we 
have learned, and the great things that we have accomplished, all 
within context of the vast array of services and benefits we provide to 
Veterans across the globe, the number of Veterans we serve, and the 
complex nature of what we do.
    VA is second only to the Department of Defense (DoD) in personnel, 
with 320,000 employees who directly touch the lives of nine million 
Veterans and their families.
    We have the largest integrated health care system in the country. 
It includes 152 hospitals, over 800 clinics, 300 Vet Centers, more than 
130 community living centers, and dozens of research facilities and 
more. Since the start of this Administration, VA has handled more than 
358 million medical encounters.
    VA has issued over $21 billion in Post-9/11 GI Bill benefit 
payments to over 802,000 individuals and their educational institutions 
since the program's inception in August 2009. VA's life insurance 
products help protect seven million clients. And, just since the start 
of this Congress, VA has guaranteed over 756,000 home loans for 
Veterans and Servicemembers. We are gratified that more Veterans are 
coming to us for the benefits they have earned. That success also 
creates the challenge of meeting increased demand.
    In 2009, we settled on three key priorities, which remain unchanged 
today:

      A commitment to increase Veterans' access to VA benefits 
and services;
      A commitment to eliminate the benefits backlog in 
compensation claims--in 2015; and
      A commitment to end Veteran homelessness--also in 2015.

    My testimony today, consequently, will be organized around the 
challenges and achievements and challenges in these three areas: (1) 
increasing Veteran access, (2) improvements in claims processing; and 
(3) ending Veteran homelessness.
    VA is proud of the progress it has made in increasing access to 
quality health care for Veterans. Our goal is not just easier 
availability, but access to the highest quality healthcare in the 
United States. We continue to innovate to provide better health care 
that is closer to the Veteran. VHA's ASPIRE program offers Veterans, 
their families, and the public the opportunity to examine detailed data 
on any VA medical center's performance in safety, effectiveness, 
efficiency, timeliness, and other areas.
    VA has taken this a step beyond the usual level of performance 
reporting, in that we do not simply accept being better than others in 
many metrics as satisfactory; rather, we aspire to the highest level of 
performance, especially when it comes to patient safety. The robustness 
of our performance measures allows VHA to identify practices that help 
improve outcomes versus those that do not, and to transfer these best 
practices across the system to improve the care we deliver as a whole. 
Awareness of performance inspires leaders at all levels to constantly 
improve by instilling a sense of excellence among peers, and providing 
the best possible care to Veterans is a powerful motivation for all VHA 
employees.
    Access also means more points of service. Since 2009, VHA has 
funded the opening of 51 new community-based outpatient clinics (CBOC) 
located in rural areas nationwide and supported the opening of 40 new 
outreach clinics that, at a minimum, provide primary care, on-site case 
management, and access to specialty mental health care. We will always 
do everything in our power to find ways to reach out to Veterans in 
need.
    VHA has dedicated great resources and innovative thinking to 
improving access to quality health care in rural areas. It is a 
national leader in establishing telehealth capabilities. In FY2011, 
clinical video telehealth, home telehealth, and store-and-forward 
telehealth provided care from more than 150 VA Medical Centers and 750 
CBOCs to more than 380,000 Veterans. We expect this number to increase 
by an additional 100,000 in FY2012. Telehealth provides access to more 
than 35 areas of specialty care, reduces the need for travel, and 
provides high levels of patient satisfaction. VA and Veterans further 
benefit by reducing the number of bed days of care and reducing travel 
costs. VA has established three regional centers for post-traumatic 
stress disorder (PTSD) telemental health to augment services among 
facilities and networks. VA has also been involved in the launch of the 
PTSD Coach smartphone application, the first in a suite of mental 
health applications for mobile devices.
    We are very proud of the VA Primary Family Caregiver Support 
Program, which has been accepting applications since May 9, 2011. 
Congress put forth a major effort to create this program, which is a 
significant new benefit for families who are sacrificing to provide 
seriously injured Veterans with care day-in and day-out. As of August 
30, 2012, there are over 5,900 primary family caregivers - and the 
Veterans they care for - who are benefiting from this important new 
source of support.
    Access to quality mental health services is a vital priority. In 
2005, at the height of operations in Iraq, we had 13,000 mental health 
professionals handling the health care needs of our Veterans. Today, 
there are more than 20,000, and we recently announced our plans to hire 
1,600 more clinical staff, bringing our total mental health staff up to 
approximately 22,000 professionals - to address the growth in mental 
health requirements spawned by the burdens of a decade of combat 
deployments shouldered by our all-volunteer force and their families.
    One of our most successful outreach efforts is our Veterans' Crisis 
Line. DoD knows it as the Military Crisis Line--using the same phone 
number and the same trained VA mental health professionals to respond 
to calls, with no cost to DoD. Since 2007, over 640,000 people have 
called in, including over 8,000 active-duty Servicemembers. We have 
made over 99,000 referrals for care and rescued over 23,000 from 
potential suicide. Younger Veterans may be more comfortable with 
chatting and texting, so in 2009 we added on-line chat, and in 2011, a 
texting service. We know that when we diagnose and treat, people get 
better. Among the 8.6 million Veterans enrolled in VA health care, the 
total number of Veterans receiving mental health treatment has increase 
from 897,643 in FY 2005 to 1,338,482 in FY 2011.
    At the same time, for Veterans receiving VA treatment, suicide 
rates are down because treatment works. In FY 2009, the suicide rate 
among individuals with mental health or substance use disorder was 56.4 
per 100,000, as compared to 23.5 among patients without these 
disorders. This continues a steady trend of lowering rate ratios 
observed since FY 2001, when the rate among patients with mental health 
or substance use disorder diagnosis was 78.0 as compared to 24.7 among 
patients without these diagnoses.
    Vet Centers are a very successful way we are reaching Veterans and 
families with support and counseling. In FY 2011, Vet Centers provided 
189,811 Veterans and families with 1,377,028 visits, a 9 percent 
increase in direct counseling services from fiscal year 2010. This 
included providing 18,553 Veteran families with 91,716 visits.
    Another area of increasing progress is access to quality health-
care that meets the needs of women Veterans. Women make up 15 percent 
of today's active duty military forces, and about 337,000 are currently 
using the VA health care system. The population of women Veterans using 
VA is increasing at a rapid pace--doubling in the last decade. To meet 
the needs of this growing Veteran community, VA is enhancing care and 
access for women Veterans by implementing Comprehensive Primary Care 
and designating a staff member as the women's health liaison at each 
CBOC. VA also applauds the Congress' recent enactment of a measure that 
allows us to establish a child-care pilot that is serving as a great 
help to Veterans by on-site child-care at select VA medical centers, 
making use of their health care benefits that much easier. That law 
also allowed VA to provide a period of care for newborn children of 
Veterans receiving maternity care.
    Mr. Chairman, I believe that access includes to job opportunities, 
and to all the tools VA can offer to help those making the transition 
from military service. In August 2011, the President directed DoD and 
VA to lead the Veterans Employment Initiative (VEI) Task Force and 
provide recommendations to maximize the career readiness of all 
Servicemembers.
    I would like to applaud this Congress for passing the ``VOW to Hire 
Heroes Act of 2011,'' which included steps to improve the existing 
Transition Assistance Program (TAP) for Servicemembers. Among other 
things, the VOW Act made participation in several components of TAP 
mandatory for all Servicemembers. VA and DoD have made progress in 
implementing VEI Task Force recommendations and preparing for the 
requirements of this law.
    The VOW Act also created the Veterans Retraining Assistance Program 
(VRAP) for unemployed Veterans between the ages 35 and 60 years old. 
VRAP provides up to 12 months of training assistance towards an 
associate's degree or certificate in a high-demand career field for up 
to 99,000 Veterans. As of September 7, 2012, over 55,000 Veterans have 
applied for the program. It also provides tax incentives to companies 
that hire Veterans, and extended VA's special employer incentives under 
our Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment program.
    VA is proud to have partnered with the First Lady's ``Joining 
Forces'' initiative and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's ``Hiring Our 
Heroes'' campaign. The President challenged private companies to hire 
or train 100,000 Veterans and military spouses by the end of 2013. To 
date, 2,100 companies have committed to 175,000 hires, and 125,000 
Veterans and spouses have already been hired. VA held its own hiring 
fairs in Washington, DC, and Detroit, Michigan, earlier this year. Over 
12,000 Veterans participated, and over 8,000 interviews were conducted. 
More than 1,700 job offers were made on the spot, and participants 
continue to receive offers.
    VA also conducted two Veteran-owned small-business training 
expositions in the past 12 months--our opportunity to educate Veteran 
small business owners on our procurement requirements and allow the 
3,500 who showed up to demonstrate their capabilities and improve their 
preparation of competitive proposals for government contracts. The 
bottom line is this: Veterans hire Veterans. So the more successful 
Veteran entrepreneurs we cultivate, the better the opportunities for 
Veterans employment.
    Access also means affording Veterans opportunities in federal 
contracting. Under the Veterans First Contracting Program, VA greatly 
expanded opportunities for service-disabled Veteran-owned small 
business (SDVOSB) and Veteran-owned small business (VOSB). In FY 2011, 
preliminary data indicate that VA's total award to small businesses was 
nearly $5.9 billion, or 33.3 percent of all VA procurements. This far 
exceeded the national goal of 23 percent for small business 
procurements. Additionally, VA surpassed the government minimum of 3 
percent for SDVOSBs, and its own internal goal of 12 percent for VOSBs 
and 10 percent for SDVOSBs, with 20.5 percent going to VOSBs and 18.2 
percent going to SDVOSBs.
    Access for VA also means ensuring that Veterans have every 
educational opportunity available they have earned through their 
service. As of September 10, 2012, VA issued over $21.4 billion in 
Post-9/11 GI Bill benefit payments to over 802,200 individuals and 
their educational institutions since inception in August 2009. Since 
the program's enactment, VA has implemented multiple legislative 
changes to the Post-9/11 GI Bill, without disrupting the flow of 
benefits to students. These changes included expanding Veterans' 
educational options under the Post 9/11 GI Bill to include technical 
on-the-job training and apprenticeship programs. This expansion makes 
Post 9/11 GI Bill educational offerings consistent with those under 
other benefits programs and allows beneficiaries to pursue shorter-term 
training prior to entering the job market. VA has also developed a 
processing system that automates components of the education claims 
process and continues to focus on timely benefits delivery. Full 
automation of a subset of claims is expected this Fall.
    VA also is taking steps to support Veterans on campus. The 
Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment (VR&E) VetSuccess on Campus 
(VSOC) program is designed to provide on-campus benefits assistance and 
adjustment counseling to Veterans. The program encourages Veteran-
students to complete a college education and prepare to enter the labor 
market in viable careers. As of September 10, 2012, 28 VSOC sites were 
established at campuses throughout the country that provide outreach, 
counseling, and benefits assistance to Veteran-students and their 
families.
    Access also means the honor of interment at one of VA's 131 
national cemeteries. NCA has opened six new national cemeteries since 
2009, and lowered the Veteran population threshold to allow improved 
access for more Veteran families to better avail themselves of benefits 
those Veterans have earned. In addition, since 2009 VA has awarded 
grants to support the opening of 15 new State Veterans cemeteries and 
four tribal Veterans cemeteries. Since 2009, VA has helped expand 
existing State cemeteries and assisted them in achieving higher 
standards and appearance and service through $65.9 million in grants to 
28 cemeteries. NCA continues its extraordinary record of customer 
service, receiving 94 points out of 100 on the American Customer 
Satisfaction Index in 2010- the highest in either the federal 
government or the private sector. NCA was also awarded the Achievement 
in Excellence Award by the State of Virginia, the highest award given 
by the state in 2011.
    A critical aspect of access is making VA and DoD work together as 
never before to serve those men and women making the transition from 
Servicemember to Veteran. Providing a `seamless' transition between VA 
and DoD is a complex and multi-faceted challenge, but it is vital to 
ensuring care for those who have served this Nation. As Secretary 
Shinseki and Secretary Panetta stated in testimony before this 
Committee in its joint hearing with the House Armed Services Committee 
in July, we have brought our Departments closer together than ever 
before.
    As we highlighted in that hearing, DoD and VA have increased the 
number of Servicemembers and Veterans whose electronic data is shared 
between the two Departments by 1.1 million. That 1.1 million increase 
includes the increased sharing of:

      23 million more laboratory results;
      3.6 million more radiology reports; and
      24 million more pharmacy records.

    As this Committee knows, the Integrated Electronic Health Record - 
or iEHR--is an ambitious effort that will take some time, but VA and 
DoD have committed to a fully operational iEHR no later than 2017, with 
clinical capabilities deployed in Hampton Roads and San Antonio in 
2014--a significant challenge, but one that is critical to achieve for 
our Nation's Veterans and Servicemembers. The result will be a single , 
standard open architecture and modular electronic health record system 
that will improve quality and lower total costs for VA and DoD.
    In the July joint hearing, VA highlighted progress in getting 
Veterans access to their benefits information through online tools such 
as Blue Button and eBenefits. The Blue Button is a joint program 
between the Department of Health and Human Services, DoD, and VA that 
provides Veterans on-demand access to personal health information at 
the click of a button, delivered in a format that is easy to read and 
accessible without any special software. President Obama announced this 
in the summer of 2010 and it was officially launched that October. 
Today, [nearly?] one million Servicemembers and Veterans have 
downloaded electronic copies of their personal health records.
    VA and DoD also have shown concrete results in the eBenefits 
portal, the joint VA/DoD client-services portal for life-long 
engagement with Servicemembers, Veterans, and their families. Thanks to 
DoD leadership, Servicemembers now automatically sign up for eBenefits 
when they enter service. eBenefits enrollment now exceeds 1.8 million 
users, and VA expects enrollment to exceed 2.5 million by the end of 
2013. The eBenefits portal provides over 45 self-service features to 
check the status of a claim or appeal; review the history of VA 
payments; request and download military personnel records; secure a 
certificate of eligibility for a VA home loan; and numerous other 
benefit actions. We aggressively continue to expand and update online 
self-service and access capabilities. We are engaging our Veterans 
Service Organization partners in registering Veterans for eBenefits 
accounts. In the coming months, Servicemembers will be able to complete 
their Servicemembers' Group Life Insurance applications and 
transactions through eBenefits. Recent enhancements allow Veterans to 
view their scheduled VA medical appointments. They will soon be able to 
file benefits claims online and upload supporting information that 
feeds our paperless process.
    VA and DoD completed implementation of the Integrated Disability 
Evaluation System (IDES) at 139 sites globally on September 30, 2011. 
IDES is aimed at achieving an integrated process for wounded, ill, and 
injured Servicemembers who face potential medical separations. We have 
improved transparency and consistency of outcomes, while reducing 
processing times between a Servicemember's referral for a fitness 
determination and receipt of VA benefits. As of August 26, 2012, we 
have reduced the processing time under the separate DoD and VA legacy 
processes from about 540 to 395 days. Our goal is 295 days. Total 
processing time for the month of August, as of August 26, was down to 
375 days. VA's portion of this goal is 100 days, and we have been as 
low as 105 days before responding to surges in military departures. In 
the month of August, as of August 26, VA processing time was 114 days.
    Turning from access to VA benefits and services to the second of 
VA's three top priorities, eliminating the claims backlog is perhaps 
our largest and most complex challenge. We are aggressively tackling 
this challenge on multiple fronts. The disability claims workload from 
the newest generation of returning Veterans, as well as from Veterans 
of earlier periods, continues to increase. VBA's annual claims receipts 
increased 48 percent over the last four years, from 888,000 in 2008 to 
1.3 million in 2011. The growth in disability claims volume is driven 
by a number of factors, including:

      Additional presumptive disabilities associated with Agent 
Orange exposure,
      New regulations for processing certain claims related to 
Gulf War service, traumatic brain injuries, and post-traumatic stress 
disorder (PTSD);
      Growth in the average number of medical conditions for 
which each claimant files;
      Improved access to benefits through the joint VA and DoD 
pre-discharge programs such as the Integrated Disability Evaluation 
System (IDES);
      Ten years of war with increased survival rates;
      Successful extensive use of VA of outreach programs 
encouraging more Veterans to submit claims; and
      Post-conflict downsizing of the military.

    Several of these factors, including the addition of presumptive 
disabilities associated with Agent Orange and regulatory changes, were 
the result of VA decisions to expand benefits during this 
Administration. These decisions - the right ones to make for our 
Veterans - dramatically expanded access to benefits and services. In 
the face of an increasing workload, VBA must deliver first-rate and 
timely benefits and services - and they must be delivered with greater 
efficiency. These decisions make it critical that we dedicate the right 
resources, technology, and innovation to eliminating the backlog.
    VA also is pursuing its Transformation Plan, a series of tightly 
integrated people, process, and technology initiatives designed to 
eliminate the claims backlog and achieve our goal of processing all 
claims within 125 days with 98 percent quality in 2015.
    Through people-focused initiatives, we are strengthening the 
expertise of our workforce by changing the way we are organized and 
trained to do the work. We are also increasing the productivity of our 
workforce and the quality of our decisions through national training 
programs and standards. We estimate that these ``people'' initiatives 
will contribute to a 15-20 percent improvement in productivity and four 
percent improvement in quality when fully implemented in all regional 
offices.
    Through process-improvement initiatives, we are rapidly developing 
and testing streamlined processes, focusing on eliminating repetition 
and rework in the claims process while delivering optimal service. We 
expect our process initiatives to contribute to a 15-20 percent 
increase in productivity and a minimum four percent improvement in 
claims quality when fully implemented nationwide.
    These increases in productivity cited above due to people, process, 
and technology improvements are additive.
    Through technology Initiatives, we are deploying solutions that 
improve access, drive automation, reduce variance, and enable faster 
and more efficient operations. Our new paperless claims processing 
solution, the Veterans Benefits Management System (VBMS) is a key 
component in eliminating the backlog. Our technology initiatives aim to 
improve access and increase efficiency, with goals to contribute to an 
additional 15-20 percent increase in productivity and a four to six 
percent improvement in claims quality.
    VBA has implemented the Transformation Organizational Model (TOM) 
at 18 regional offices to date. Thirty-eight regional offices will 
implement TOM by the end of December 2013. VBMS, a key component of our 
technology solutions, is currently being piloted at four regional 
offices and will be deployed to all stations by the end of 2013.
    Our third top priority is to use all the tools at our disposal, 
including partnerships with other Federal agencies, States, community 
providers, and volunteers to end Veterans Homelessness. VA offers a 
comprehensive continuum of homelessness services which are coordinated 
with community efforts. We want to thank the Committee for its 
partnership and commitment in this effort - it is truly appreciated. 
When HUD, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, announces 
its 2012 Point-in-Time estimate of homeless Veterans, we expect 
additional progress to be made and to stay on track to end Veterans' 
homelessness in 2015. Between the 2010 and the 2011 point in time 
counts, veteran homeless has decreased nearly 12 percent.
    VA's Loan Guaranty Program has also played a part in this effort. 
Since January 2011, VA has helped over 119,000, or 82.5 percent of, 
defaulted VA borrowers avoid foreclosure. This foreclosure avoidance 
assistance translated into an average estimated $4.2 billion in 
foreclosure claim payments avoided. In many cases, VA intervened, 
working with Veterans' financial institutions to lower interest rates 
and payments or modify loan repayment terms to keep Veterans and their 
families in their homes.
    In addition, VA's National Cemetery Administration has implemented 
a new Homeless Veterans Apprenticeship Program in collaboration with 
VHA and VA Learning University. This program will create paid 
employment positions as Cemetery Caretakers - successful completion of 
twelve months of training will result in permanent full-time 
employment.
Leadership
    We cannot talk about achievements and challenges without talking 
about the leadership, management, and organizational structures 
required to make change happen. Good will and dedication are not 
enough, and we owe it to Veterans and taxpayers to provide the best 
return on every dollar appropriated to meet the Nation's debt to our 
Veterans.
    In 2009, the Department of Veterans Affairs faced significant 
internal and external challenges. Despite a cohort of dedicated, 
caring, and committed employees, the organization was experiencing 
problems. President Obama seized the opportunity to initiate a sweeping 
transformation of VA, with the goal of creating a more effective and 
efficient organization. He charged Secretary Shinseki to transform VA 
into a high-performing 21st century organization. VA launched a 
transformation effort that emphasized:

      Cultural Change: This critical facet of the 
transformation binds all transformation initiatives together, enabling 
VA to change its relationship with Veterans fundamentally--treating 
them as clients and continually emphasizing new and better ways to 
serve them. To that end, Advocacy is a prominent value among the five 
core values that imbue our work at VA with purpose including: 
Integrity, Commitment, Advocacy, Respect, and Excellence.
      Modernization and Innovation: VA facilities, systems, 
programs, and business processes required updating and cutting-edge 
technological solutions.
      Integration and Collaboration: Critical to the 
transformation was the integration of disparate support services, 
including Information Technology (IT), Human Resources (HR), 
Acquisitions and Logistics, and Financial Management. Additionally, 
serving Veterans necessitated an enhanced collaborative relationship 
with the DoD and other federal entities. To that end, the Secretaries 
of VA and DoD have met an unprecedented 10 times since 2009, and for 
the first time ever, testified before a joint hearing of this Committee 
and the House Armed Services Committee in July 2012 to report on our 
collaborative efforts..
      Disciplined Decision Making Based Upon Data, Metrics, and 
Performance Monitoring: VA has developed and deployed a comprehensive 
performance management system. Program planning is informed by 
evaluation of program efficiency and effectiveness supported by new 
measures of critical success factors.
      Access and Responsiveness: To become a more accessible 
and responsive organization, VA needed to expand and enhance its 
connections with Veterans, and emphasize accountability and 
transparency through improved outreach, use of new media as well as 
traditional field visits.

    VA's transformation also required fundamental changes in management 
infrastructure to coordinate operations across business lines and hold 
managers accountable for effective delivery of services. This required 
closer integration of four major organizational components of VA: VBA, 
VHA, and NCA, as well as the VA Central Office (VACO) policy and 
program staffs. New and more robust business systems support unity of 
action through better oversight, consolidation of support services, and 
enterprise-level efforts aimed at serving Veterans in a more 
comprehensive and holistic fashion. For example, eliminating Veteran 
homelessness required budget allocations and project management support 
from VACO, as well as health professionals from VHA; housing and 
employment specialists from VBA; and IT systems to integrate, track, 
and unify the effort. As an example of utilizing all of VA in this 
integrated effort, NCA is offering job apprenticeship opportunities for 
Veterans who are homeless or at risk of homelessness.
    Public outreach was coordinated with members of Congress, our 
Veterans Service Organizations, and the media. That outreach also 
helped galvanize the activities of State and local governments, as well 
as non-profit and faith-based organizations on whom our success 
depends.
    Tighter integration also requires leaders to work within a more 
transparent governance process so that senior leadership can achieve 
their respective transformation objectives by leveraging three 
resources:

      People--Human resources for strategic management and 
staffing;
      Money--Sufficient budgetary resources for the right 
programs; and
      Things--Modern and innovative IT systems as well as our 
extended supply chain for goods and services, and other enabling 
technologies.

    As a result of the focus on these management drivers, VA has 
reduced the average time to hire VA employees from 102 to 87 days; 
trained 300,000 employees through the VA Learning University (VALU); 
implemented the Project Management Accountability System (PMAS), 
increasing VA's accountability for IT projects with on-time delivery to 
over 80 percent; established the Strategic Acquisition Center (SAC) to 
leverage VA's spending power and improve contracting and procurement 
activities; produced a long-term strategic investment plan to identify 
gaps and optimize utilization of capital resources; developed and 
deployed over 20 dynamic performance dashboard views to support 
executive decision making; and issued security access cards known as 
Personal Identity Verification (PIV) cards to nearly 100 percent of VA 
employees, contractors, and affiliates. These changes in internal 
capabilities have enabled more effective and efficient delivery of 
services and benefits to Veterans.
    I want to address the issue of training conferences, as there was 
one recent well-publicized instance that called into question VA 
stewardship of taxpayer dollars. This particular conference occurred 
before VA had taken significant steps to establish tighter controls and 
more accountability for conference expenditures. I will make two points 
- first, that VA is redoubling its efforts to prevent instances of 
misuse of funds or wasteful spending. At the same time, we must be very 
cautious not to curtail conferences that have demonstrated value in 
training our employees and developing innovative approaches that 
ultimately save money and serve our Veterans better. Hopefully, you 
will see that VA's transformation efforts are providing value to the 
Nation and profoundly changing our services to Veterans.
    These actions will ensure real lasting progress on the Secretary's 
three priorities: better access to quality health care, services, and 
benefits, eliminating the claims backlog, and ending Veteran 
homelessness.
    Our team and our dedicated employees have achieved the following:

      The number of Veterans receiving VA disability 
compensation has increased by 21 percent from FY2008 to August FY2012;
      Vocational Rehabilitation (Ch 31) participants increased 
by 15 percent from FY2008 to August of FY2012;
      The number of Veterans compensated for PTSD increased by 
64 percent from FY2008 to August of FY2012;
      Created an automated system, provided GI Bill benefits to 
nearly 800,000 individuals since 2009- comprising nearly half of all 
Veterans (or their eligible family members) who have served since 9/11 
- over 800,000 individuals. The number of education beneficiaries 
increased by 63 percent from FY2008 to August of FY2012;
      Delivered average pensions of $11,000 into the hands of 
more than 300,000 Veterans living at the poverty level, and $6,500 per 
year to 250,000 of their survivors - caring for over half a million 
elderly Veterans who otherwise might be destitute and potentially 
homeless;
      Through the VA Home Loan Homeless Prevention program, 
kept over 83,000 Servicemembers, Veterans, and survivors in their homes 
in FY2011 alone;
      Life Insurance coverage for disabled Veterans increased 
by 31 percent from FY2008 to August FY2012 ;
      Created an internet eBenefits portal that is a ``place to 
go'' for Veterans and Servicemembers for health care, employment, 
insurance, disability compensation, and GI Bill information, and added 
over 45 new capabilities;.
      Built and piloted a paperless claims processing system 
that will be the core of our effort to eliminate the claims backlog and 
that lowered the average processing time from 250 to 115 days;
      Expanded access to allow almost 700,00 more Veterans to 
enroll in VA health care;
      Delivered high quality health care to an additional 
600,000 Veterans between FY2008 and FY2012;
      Recruited over 150,000 Veterans in a cutting-edge study 
evaluating genomic medicine;
      Treated 12 percent more unique patients in VA Health Care 
facilities increased from FY2008 to FY2012;
      Opened the first new state-of-the-art medical center in 
17 years in Las Vegas, as well as more than fifty CBOCs to deliver high 
quality primary and mental health care to more than 215,000 Veterans 
closer to home;
      Trained over 4,000 mental health providers in evidence-
based psychotherapies for PTSD and other mental health conditions;
      Identified locations for the development of five new 
national cemeteries that will provide burial access to an additional 
500,000 Veterans and their eligible family members. In total, VA plans 
to provide 95 percent of the Veteran population - approximately 21 
million individuals - with access to a burial option in a national or 
state Veterans cemetery within 75 miles of their homes by the end of FY 
2015;
      Identified locations for the development of five new 
national cemeteries and five new columbarium in urban locations;
      Identified eight rural National Veterans Burial Grounds 
to serve low-density Veteran populations; and,
      Began our work with DoD to create the single electronic 
medical record system that will serve over 15 million patients under VA 
and DoD health systems every year;

    As we have detailed here, these are big challenges that are 
requiring our best minds and most determined and talented employees to 
take on, and there is much work to do. I am grateful that Congress has 
been both our partner and our constructive critic as we've forged 
ahead.
    Mr. Chairman, I will be glad to answer any questions you or the 
other Members of the Committee have.

                                 
                        Questions For The Record
Responses from the Department of Veterans' Affairs
    Question 1. An explanation of why there are more than 98 metrics in 
the attachment for FY2012.
    Response: Performance metrics span all business lines and vary from 
year to year depending on current priorities. VBA issues Director 
Performance Plans at the beginning of each fiscal year (FY) that 
outline the performance metrics which they will be evaluated on at the 
end of the FY. Because priorities and business lines vary by RO, the 
number of metrics can change from year to year and be different from RO 
to RO.

    Question 2. The document/language that Diana mentioned explaining 
the EOY evaluation process.
    Response: Please see attached methodology for the FY2011 Director 
Performance Rankings. The Office of Field Operations is currently 
revising the methodology for FY2012. OFO is happy to have another call 
to discuss the methodology if more explanation is needed.
Attachment
                   FY11 Director Ranking Methodology
                              October 2011
    The FY11 Director Performance Ranking was done based on the 
Organizational Performance element. A weighted method was used, meaning 
each business line was assigned a specific weight within the 
performance element, and each performance metric was assigned a weight 
within its specific business line. Stations were rated on a five-point 
scale, and then ranked on the number of points earned out of the 
potential five points.
    For example, Atlanta is a station with four business lines 
(Compensation, Vocational Rehabilitation, Loan Guaranty, and 
Education). Each of these business lines is weighted, and contributes 
to the potential five points Atlanta can earn as a station.
    Next, additional points were added to station totals based on that 
station having extenuating circumstances affecting their FY11 
performance, such as a D1BC or DRAS. Lastly, stations were split into 
those having SES or GS-15 Directors, and ranked as ``Outstanding'', 
``Excellent'', or ``Fully Successful''.
Organizational Performance Element
    The Organizational Performance elements are weighted dependent upon 
how many business lines the station has. Compensation is given the 
largest weight, with the remaining weights being divided equally among 
the additional business lines.

    1 Business line = Compensation 100%
    2 Business lines = Compensation 75%, Second 25%
    3 Business lines = Compensation 65%, Second, Third 17.5% each
    4 Business lines = Compensation 55%, Second, Third, Fourth 15% each
    5 Business lines = Compensation 50%, Second, Third, Fourth, Fifth 
12.5% each

    Business lines considered: Compensation, VR&E, Pension, Loan 
Guaranty, Education, Call Center, IRIS
Element Point Values:
    1. Each performance metric has a maximum value of 5 points
    2. Points 1-5 are awarded based on the performance of each given 
metric, as follows:

       a. Outstanding (25% or better) = 5 points
       b. Excellent (15% or better) = 4 points
       c. Fully Successful (achieved target) = 3 points
       d. Minimally Successful (15% below target) = 2 points
       e. Unsatisfactory (25% below target) = 1 point

    3. A performance improvement factor is also considered for stations 
that were ranked below ``excellent''

       a. Exceeding FY10 performance by 15% is awarded 1 point
       b. Exceeding FY10 performance by 25% is awarded 2 points

    4. A business line may not exceed 5 points total.

    Once a point value is awarded, the weighting of the specific 
performance metric within the business line is applied as follow:


----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                    I. Organizational Performance                                        Weight
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                        Compensation (1 Business Line)                                100.0%
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                        Compensation (2 Business Lines)                                75.0%
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                        Compensation (3 Business Lines)                                65.0%
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                        Compensation (4 Business Lines)                                55.0%
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                        Compensation (5 Business Lines)                                50.0%
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                     Homeless ADP                                       5.0%
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                 Rating Inventory                                       3.0%
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                Rating Production                                      12.5%
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                  Rating Accuracy                                      12.5%
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                           Authorization Accuracy                                      12.5%
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                               Fiduciary Accuracy                                      12.5%
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                     DOC Accuracy                                       3.0%
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                Backlog Inventory                                       3.0%
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                Rating ADC (FYTD)                                       3.0%
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                       Rating ADP                                       3.0%
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                            Cycle Time Indicators                                       3.0%
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                          NOD ADP                                       3.0%
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                       Form 9 ADP                                       3.0%
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                      Remand Rate                                       3.0%
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                    NOD Inventory                                       3.0%
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                   Non-Rating ADP                                       3.0%
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                              FidBen Appt Pending                                       2.0%
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                            FidBen Appt Processed                                       2.0%
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                       IA Pending                                       2.0%
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                     IA Processed                                       2.0%
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                   Acct. Reviewed                                       2.0%
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                   Acct. Not Seriously Delinquent                                       2.0%
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                     Total Weight                                     100.0%
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                        VR&E (2 Business Lines)                                      25.0%
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                        VR&E (3 Business Lines)                                      17.5%
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                        VR&E (4 Business Lines)                                      15.0%
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                        VR&E (5 Business Lines)                                      12.5%
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                               Rehab Rate                                            20.0%
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                           SEH Rehab Rate                                            20.0%
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                         Outcome Accuracy                                            10.0%
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                      Days to Entitlement                                             6.0%
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                       Interrupted Status                                             6.0%
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                  Evaluation and Planning                                             6.0%
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                          Fiscal Accuracy                                            10.0%
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                           EPRSA Accuracy                                            15.0%
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                    Employment Rehab Rate                                             6.0%
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                             MRG Accuracy                                             1.0%
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                             Total Weight
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                             Total Weight                                           100.0%
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                   Pension (3 Business Lines)                                                        17.5%
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                   Pension (4 Business Lines)                                                        15.0%
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                   Pension (5 Business Lines)                                                        12.5%
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                        Rating Inventory                                                              6.0%
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                        Rating Production                                                            15.0%
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                           Rating ADP                                                                10.0%
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                         Non-Income ADP                                                              10.0%
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                        EP 155 ADC (FYTD)                                                             5.0%
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                        EP 150 ADC (FYTD)                                                             5.0%
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                        EP 190 ADC (FYTD)                                                             5.0%
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                    IVM Completed/Controlled                                                          5.0%
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                     Authorization Accuracy                                                          15.0%
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                         Rating Accuracy                                                             15.0%
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                             NOD ADP                                                                  3.0%
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                           Form 9 ADP                                                                 3.0%
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                          NOD Inventory                                                               3.0%
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                             Total Weight                                           100.0%
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                         Loan Guaranty (3 Business Lines)            17.5%
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                         Loan Guaranty (4 Business Lines)            15.0%
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                         Loan Production Full Reviews                 8.0%
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                         Loan Production Timely Reviews               8.0%
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                         LAPP Reviews                                 8.0%
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                             SAPP Reviews                                             8.0%
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                        C&V Field Reviews                                             8.0%
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                      Initial SAH Reviews                                             8.0%
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                               AOS Timely                                             8.0%
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                   Non-Routine ACQ Timely                                             8.0%
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                         Loan Production Accuracy                     9.0%
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                             C&V Accuracy                                             9.0%
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                             SAH Accuracy                                             9.0%
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                         Loan Administration Accuracy                 9.0%
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                             Total Weight                                           100.0%
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                   Education (3 Business Lines)                                      17.5%
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                   Education (4 Business Lines)                                      15.0%
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                     Original ADC (month)                                            30.0%
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                 Supplemental ADC (month)                                            30.0%
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                         Payment Accuracy                                            40.0%
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                             Total Weight                                           100.0%
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                        IRIS (3 Business Lines)                                      17.5%
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                 Accuracy                                             0.0%
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                               Timeliness                                           100.0%
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                             Total Weight                                           100.0%
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                Call Centers (3 Business Lines)                                      17.5%
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                Call Centers (4 Business Lines)                                      15.0%
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                Call Centers (5 Business Lines)                                      12.5%
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                      Quality Call Review                                             7.5%
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                        Average Wait Time                                             7.5%
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                Client Satisfaction Index                                            50.0%
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                  Agent Availability Rate                                            35.0%
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                             Total Weight                                           100.0%
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Potential Number of Points Per Station:
    1. A station's potential point value is determined by the number of 
business lines at that station, and the weights for those business 
lines. Stations ranged from a maximum of 10.03 points available to a 
minimum of 2.225.
% of Points Earned:
    1. Once a total weighted point value is calculated, it is compared 
to the total potential point value for the station.
    2. Stations are ranked based on the percentage earned of the total 
available points.
Adjustment Points:
    1. Once stations were ranked on a % basis, point adjustments were 
made based on Area Director discretion, to account for extenuating 
circumstances that RO faced during the FY.

       a. Stations with D1BC = 3 points
       b. Station with partial year D1BC = 1 point
       c. Nehmer brokering support = 1 point
       d. DRAS stations = 2 points
       e. DRAS support = 1 point
       f. Quality Review Teams and Fully Integrated Teams 
implementation = 3 points
       g. ILAB = 3 points
       h. Extensive brokering = 1 point
       i. Extensive involvement in mid-term bargaining = 1 point
Final Ranking:
    Final ranking based on percentage of station points earned, with 
the Area Director adjustment factored in. Stations were split into 
those having SES or GS-15 Directors, and ranked as ``Outstanding'', 
``Excellent'', or ``Fully Successful''.

    Prepared by the Office of Field Operations
    06/26/2013
                        Regional Office Director
                             SES and GS-15
                       Performance Appraisal Plan
                   October 1, 2011-September 30, 2012
I. Organizational Performance - (Critical Element)
    Weight: 60%
    In support of Strategic Goals: 1, 2, 4
    In support of Integrated Strategies: 1a, 1b, 1c, 1e, 2c, 2d

    The Director leads his or her regional office in the pursuit of 
optimum performance in all applicable program areas. Appropriate 
emphasis is placed on the Secretary for Veterans Affairs and Under 
Secretary for Benefits' priorities assuring that those priorities are 
reflected in the regional office's performance. In addition, through 
efficient and effective management, ensures that benefits and services 
are provided in a timely, objective manner, with respect to speed, 
accuracy, customer satisfaction, and employee development. Evidence of 
this leadership will be observable in terms of performance against 
established targets and goals. The Director assures that national 
policy and procedural changes are expeditiously distributed, accurately 
communicated, and effectively implemented. Directs and documents 
actions taken to sustain sound quality assurance programs, workload 
management processes, and internal control systems to effectively 
oversee work accomplishments and minimize risks in all program areas.
    The Director is also responsible for ensuring that programs and 
policies are implemented, assessed through an effective internal 
control process, and adjusted as necessary to achieve appropriate 
results. Failure to meet any of the following sub-elements means that 
the Director will be required to submit compelling mitigating reasons 
why the sub-element was not met and to identify those actions that are 
being taken to achieve the standard set in the sub-element. The Rating 
Official will have the discretion to determine if the Director meets 
the sub-element based on management actions taken rather than on actual 
performance achieved.
    Note: Clients include Veterans and their families. Customers are 
defined as organizations inside VA such as administrations and staff 
offices. Stakeholders refer to organizations outside of VA such as 
VSOs, OMB, and Congress.
Sub-element 1: Transformation
    Supports the implementation of VA's Major Initiatives and 
Organization-Specific Initiatives, which execute the Department's 
transformation in fiscal year 2012.
    Initiative/Action Performance Goal: Leads and manages the regional 
office which promotes a 21st century VA and ensures that organizational 
and individual performance are Veteran-centric, Results-Driven and 
Forward-Looking.

       Veteran-Centric - Services and products provided by the regional 
office are useful and beneficial as measured by achievement of service 
delivery targets as outlined in Sub-element 2. Uses feedback to 
continuously improve delivery of services and products. Works to 
strengthen the relationship between the regional office and the 
veterans served.
       Results-Driven - Serves as an active participant in supporting 
the Department's thirteen Major Initiatives and/or regional office 
Initiatives. Communicates the Department's vision and holds self and 
subordinate employees accountable for accomplishments through shared 
goal setting. The leader works to strengthen the relationship between 
the organization and its customers and stakeholders. The leader 
supports a transformational approach by collaborating and partnering 
with other VA offices and offices outside of VA to accomplish goals. 
This approach results in achieving 60% of critical actions/designated 
goals specific to mission and organization operating plan 
accomplishment by the end of the fiscal year.
       Forward Looking - Anticipates future needs of Veterans and VA 
and encourages organizational and individual improvement. Demonstrates 
commitment to the 21st century VA by ensuring that operating plans are 
aligned with VA's Strategic Plan's strategic goals, integrated 
objectives, and integrated strategies. Alignment is strong and evident 
when the Department's strategic goals and objectives are cascaded down 
to the specific goals of the organization. Then, the goals of the 
organization must be clearly translated into objectives and performance 
standards for each employee.

    In support of Sub-element 1: Transformation, the Director actively 
supports, promotes and implements official VA and VBA policy as 
interpreted by VA and VBA leadership. The Director regularly 
participates in activities and projects intended to further the goals 
of VBA. These activities typically require the contribution of local 
resources. Examples include, but are not limited to:

      Projects at the National Level
      Special ad hoc efforts

    Evaluation Method: The Director's actions and conduct in regards to 
policy will be observed. Any failures to actively support, promote and 
implement official policy will be documented and communicated to the 
Director. The Director may be assigned projects during the course of 
the performance year. The Director and Rating Official will agree on 
clear expectations for successful completion of the project at the time 
of assignment. The size and quantity of these projects will be 
considered in light of the size of the Director's regional office.
    Fully Successful Performance Evaluation: Meets Performance 
Expectations
    Performance is acceptable if there is no documented failures to 
support, promote, or implement VA or VBA policy, and the Rating 
Official determines that completion of projects and innovations is 
substantially equal (or equivalent) to agreed upon expectations.
Sub-element 2: Service Delivery
    The Director leads his/her regional office in appropriate workload 
and human resource management aimed at achieving national and regional 
office-specific performance goal/targets.
    The following end products will be removed from Veteran Service 
Center calculations for regional offices maintaining identified special 
missions.

      Milwaukee, and St. Paul Regional Offices: 019, 119, 029, 
180 series, 120 series, 140 series, 160 series, 165, 190 series, 137, 
150 series, 155, 297
      Philadelphia Regional Offices: 019, 119, 029, 180 series, 
120 series, 147, 160 series, 165, 190 series, 137, 150 series, 155, 297
      Winston-Salem and Salt Lake City Regional Offices: 011, 
111, 021
      Winston-Salem and San Diego Regional Offices: 017, 117, 
027
      Jackson Regional Office: 012, 112, 142, 022
      Louisville Regional Office: Camp Lejeune Water 
Contamination claims
      Baltimore, Providence, and Seattle Regional Offices: 
Disability Evaluations System claims (689)

    Evaluation Method: Sub-element 2: Service Delivery will be 
evaluated based on the Performance Scale for each individual Service 
Delivery performance measure. The Performance Scale indicates the 
performance level (Outstanding, Excellent, Fully Successful, Minimally 
Successful, Unsatisfactory) for each measure assigned within this sub-
element.
    It is important to note that the Performance Scale is specific to 
each performance measure in Sub-element 2: Service Delivery, and is not 
an indication of the Director's final overall performance rating, or 
the aggregate rating for this sub-element.
    In order to provide a mechanism that allows for recognizing 
regional offices making considerable improvements during the course of 
the fiscal year, an Improvement Factor is included. The Improvement 
Factor provides for the increase of one performance level for each 
performance measure that achieves a 15% improvement from the previous 
fiscal year, and the increase of two performance levels for each 
performance measure that achieves a 25% improvement from the previous 
fiscal year. The Improvement Factor is applied to only to individual 
performance measures and allows for the Director to achieve a higher 
evaluation, should the regional office achieve considerable 
improvement.

    An example of the Improvement Factor is as follows:

    Regional office A achieved a rating ADP of 265.0 during FY11. 
During FY12, the regional office achieved a rating ADP of 198.6. 
Although the regional office did not achieve the FY12 rating ADP target 
of 180.0, the regional office did improve by over 25%. Therefore, 
instead of achieving minimally satisfactory performance for rating ADP, 
the regional office will have achieved excellent performance for rating 
ADP, due to the application of the Improvement Factor, which increases 
by two, the performance level for regional offices attaining 25% 
improvement, per measure, from the previous fiscal year. Had Regional 
office A only achieved an FY12 rating ADP of 225.3, an improvement of 
15% from the previous fiscal year, the Improvement Factor would result 
in Regional office A achieving fully successful performance for rating 
ADP.
    Although not included as a performance standard metric, for which 
Directors will be evaluated, regional office-specific rating inventory 
indicators are established, which lead to the national target of 
840,000.
    Additionally, the impact of workload brokering will be considered 
as a mitigating factor for regional offices that broker work in to the 
Veterans Service Center to address national workload needs.

                                       VETERAN SERVICE CENTER COMPENSATION
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
 Performance Measure    FY12 Target          O              E              FS             MS             U
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
         eBenefits             TBD
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
      Homeless ADP            75.0    Less than or    56.4 to 63.8   63.9 to 75.0   75.1 to 93.7   Greater than
                                      equal to 56.3                                                 or equal to
                                                                                                           93.8
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
       Homeless ADC (FYTD)    95.0    Less than or    71.4 to 80.8   80.9 to 95.0   95.1 to 118.7  Greater than
                                      equal to 71.3                                                 or equal to
                                                                                                          118.8
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
        Rating ADP           180.0    Less than or    135.1to 153.0      153.1 to       180.1 to   Greater than
                                      equal to 135.0                        180.0          224.9    or equal to
                                                                                                          225.0
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
         Rating ADC (FYTD)   230.0    Less than or        172.6 to       195.6 to       231.1 to   Greater than
                                      equal to 172.5         195.5          230.0          287.4    or equal to
                                                                                                          287.5
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                  Control Time 7.0    Less than or      5.4 to 6.0     6.1 to 7.0     7.1 to 8.7   Greater than
                                      equal to 5.3                                                  or equal to
                                                                                                            8.8
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Awaiting Development          20.0    Less than or    15.1 to 17.0   17.1 to 20.0   20.1 to 24.9   Greater than
                                      equal to 15.0                                                 or equal to
                                                                                                           25.0
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
 Awaiting Evidence            83.0    Less than or    62.4 to 70.6   70.7 to 83.0   83.1 to 103.7  Greater than
                                      equal to 62.3                                                 or equal to
                                                                                                          103.8
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
   Rating Decision            15.0    Less than or    11.4 to 12.8   12.9 to 15.0   15.1 to 18.7   Greater than
                                      equal to 11.3                                                 or equal to
                                                                                                           18.8
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Awaiting Award             5.0    Less than or      3.7 to 4.3     4.2 to 5.0     5.1 to 6.2   Greater than
                                      equal to 3.8                                                  or equal to
                                                                                                            6.3
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
          Awaiting             2.0    Less than or      1.6 to 1.7     1.8 to 2.0     2.1 to 2.4   Greater than
      Authorization                   equal to 1.5                                                  or equal to
                                                                                                            2.5
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
   Rating Accuracy           92.0%    Great than or       97.9% to       94.7% to       91.9% to   Less than or
                                      equal to 98.0%         94.8%          92.0%          89.2%       equal to
                                                                                                          89.1%
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Rating Accuracy B2        Regional    25.0% better        24.9% to       14.9% to       14.8% to    25.0% worse
             Errors         Office                    15.0% better       Regional    24.9% worse
                                                                     office Target
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
     Authorization           98.0%    Great than or            N/A            N/A       97.9% to   Less than or
           Accuracy                   equal to 98.0%                                       95.1%       equal to
                                                                                                          95.0%
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Fiduciary Accuracy           92.0%    Great than or       97.9% to       94.7% to       91.9% to   Less than or
                                      equal to 98.0%         94.8%          92.0%          89.2%       equal to
                                                                                                          89.1%
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
          Date of Claim      98.0%    Great than or            N/A            N/A       97.9% to   Less than or
           Accuracy                   equal to 98.0%                                       95.1%       equal to
                                                                                                          95.0%
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
 Rating Production        Regional    25.0% better        24.9% to       14.9% to       14.8% to    25.0% worse
                            Office                    15.0% better       Regional    24.9% worse
                                                                     office Target
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
 Backlog Inventory        Regional    25.0% better        24.9% to       14.9% to       14.8% to    25.0% worse
                            Office                    15.0% better       Regional    24.9% worse
                                                                     office Target
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Non-Rating ADP            89.0    Less than or    66.9 to 75.7   75.8 to 89.0   89.1 to 111.2  Greater than
                                      equal to 66.8                                                 or equal to
                                                                                                          111.3
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    NOD Timeliness           182.0    Less than or        136.6 to       154.8 to       182.1 to   Greater than
                                      equal to 136.5         154.7          182.0          227.4    or equal to
                                                                                                          227.5
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
 Form 9 Timeliness           320.0    Less than or        240.1 to       272.1 to       320.1 to   Greater than
                                      equal to 240.0         272.0          320.0          399.9    or equal to
                                                                                                          400.0
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
           Appeal Control Time 7.0    Less than or      5.4 to 6.0     6.1 to 7.0     7.1 to 8.7   Greater than
                                      equal to 5.3                                                  or equal to
                                                                                                            8.8
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
  Avoidable Remand           15.0%    Less than or        11.2% to       12.7% to       15.1% to   Greater than
               Rate                   equal to 11.3%         12.8%          15.0%          17.3%    or equal to
                                                                                                          17.4%
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
     NOD Inventory        Regional    25.0% better        24.9% to       14.9% to       14.8% to    25.0% worse
                            Office                    15.0% better       Regional    24.9% worse
                                                                     office Target
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


                                      SPECIAL MISSIONS COMPENSATION (IDES)
                                 Baltimore, Providence, Seattle Regional Offices
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
 Performance Measure    FY12 Target          O              E              FS             MS             U
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                  Claims Devel10.0nt  Less than or      7.6 to 8.5    8.6 to 10.0   10.1 to 12.5   Greater than
                 ADC (FYTD)           equal to 7.5                                                  or equal to
                                                                                                           12.6
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Preliminary Rating            15.0    Less than or    11.4 to 12.8   12.9 to 15.0   15.1 to 18.7   Greater than
                 ADC (FYTD)           equal to 11.3                                                 or equal to
                                                                                                           18.8
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
   Final Rating ADC           20.0    Less than or    15.1 to 17.0   17.1 to 20.0   20.1 to 25.0   Greater than
             (FYTD)                   equal to 15.0                                                 or equal to
                                                                                                           25.1
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
 Rating Production        Regional    25.0% better        24.9% to       14.9% to       14.8% to    25.0% worse
                            Office                    15.0% better       Regional    24.9% worse
                                                                     office Target
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
 Backlog Inventory        Regional    25.0% better        24.9% to       14.9% to       14.8% to    25.0% worse
                            Office                    15.0% better       Regional    24.9% worse
                                                                     office Target
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


                                  SPECIAL MISSIONS COMPENSATION (PRE-DISCHARGE)
                            Winston-Salem, Salt Lake City, San Diego Regional Offices
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
 Performance Measure    FY12 Target          O              E              FS             MS             U
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
            BDD ADC (FYTD)    72.0    Less than or    54.1 to 61.2   61.3 to 72.0   72.1 to 89.9   Greater than
                                      equal to 54.0                                                 or equal to
                                                                                                           90.0
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Quick Start ADC          138.0    Less than or        103.6 to       117.4 to       138.1 to   Greater than
             (FYTD)                   equal to 103.5         117.3          138.0          172.4    or equal to
                                                                                                          172.5
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
 Rating Production        Regional    25.0% better        24.9% to       14.9% to       14.8% to    25.0% worse
                            Office                    15.0% better       Regional    24.9% worse
                                                                     office Target
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
 Backlog Inventory        Regional    25.0% better        24.9% to       14.9% to       14.8% to    25.0% worse
                            Office                    15.0% better       Regional    24.9% worse
                                                                     office Target
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


                                    SPECIAL MISSIONS COMPENSATION (RADIATION)
                                             Jackson Regional Office
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
 Performance Measure    FY12 Target          O              E              FS             MS             U
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
        Rating ADP           272.0    Less than or        204.1 to       231.3 to       272.1 to   Greater than
                                      equal to 204.0         231.2          272.0          339.9    or equal to
                                                                                                          340.0
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
 Rating Production        Regional    25.0% better        24.9% to       14.9% to       14.8% to    25.0% worse
                            Office                    15.0% better       Regional    24.9% worse
                                                                     office Target
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
 Backlog Inventory        Regional    25.0% better        24.9% to       14.9% to       14.8% to    25.0% worse
                            Office                    15.0% better       Regional    24.9% worse
                                                                     office Target
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


                                      SPECIAL MISSIONS COMPENSATION (D1BC)
   Philadelphia, Togus, Columbia, Huntington, Roanoke, St. Petersburg, Lincoln, Muskogee, St. Louis, St. Paul,
                               Waco, Phoenix, San Diego, Seattle Regional Offices
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
 Performance Measure    FY12 Target          O              E              FS             MS             U
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
 Rating Production        Regional    25.0% better        24.9% to       14.9% to       14.8% to    25.0% worse
                            Office                    15.0% better       Regional    24.9% worse
                                                                     office Target
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
 Backlog Inventory        Regional    25.0% better        24.9% to       14.9% to       14.8% to    25.0% worse
                            Office                    15.0% better       Regional    24.9% worse
                                                                     office Target
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


                                            SPECIAL MISSIONS PENSION
                               Philadelphia, Milwaukee, St. Paul Regional Offices
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
 Performance Measure    FY12 Target          O              E              FS             MS             U
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
      Homeless ADP            75.0    Less than or    56.4 to 63.8   63.9 to 75.0   75.1 to 93.7   Greater than
                                      equal to 56.3                                                 or equal to
                                                                                                           93.8
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
       Homeless ADC (FYTD)    95.0    Less than or    71.4 to 80.8   80.9 to 95.0   95.1 to 118.7  Greater than
                                      equal to 71.3                                                 or equal to
                                                                                                          118.8
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
        Rating ADP            99.0    Less than or    74.4 to 84.2   84.3 to 99.0   99.1 to 123.7  Greater than
                                      equal to 74.3                                                 or equal to
                                                                                                          123.8
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
         Rating ADC (FYTD)   115.0    Less than or    86.4 to 97.8   97.9 to 115.0      115.1 to   Greater than
                                      equal to 86.3                                        143.6    or equal to
                                                                                                          143.7
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
         EP 140 ADC (FYTD)   105.0    Less than or    78.9 to 89.3   89.4 to 105.0      105.1 to   Greater than
                                      equal to 78.8                                        131.1    or equal to
                                                                                                          131.2
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
         EP 190 ADC (FYTD)   131.0    Less than or    98.4 to 111.4      111.5 to       131.1 to   Greater than
                                      equal to 98.3                         131.0          163.6    or equal to
                                                                                                          163.7
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
 Rating Production        Regional    25.0% better        24.9% to       14.9% to       14.8% to    25.0% worse
                            Office                    15.0% better       Regional    24.9% worse
                                                                     office Target
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
 Backlog Inventory        Regional    25.0% better        24.9% to       14.9% to       14.8% to    25.0% worse
                            Office                    15.0% better       Regional    24.9% worse
                                                                     office Target
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Non-Income ADP            89.0    Less than or    66.9 to 75.7   75.8 to 89.0   89.1 to 111.2  Greater than
                                      equal to 66.8                                                 or equal to
                                                                                                          111.3
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
         EP 155 ADC (FYTD)    46.0    Less than or    34.6 to 39.1   39.2 to 46.0   46.1 to 57.5   Greater than
                                      equal to 34.5                                                 or equal to
                                                                                                           57.8
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
         EP 150 ADC (FYTD)   111.0    Less than or    83.4 to 94.4   94.5 to 111.0      111.1 to   Greater than
                                      equal to 83.3                                        138.6    or equal to
                                                                                                          138.7
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
              IVM Controlled/95.0%    Great than or       99.9% to       96.8% to       94.9% to   Less than or
                   Completed              equal to           96.9%          95.0%          90.1%       equal to
                                            100.0%                                                        90.0%
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Entitlement Accuracy         98.0%    Great than or            N/A            N/A       97.9% to   Less than or
                                      equal to 98.0%                                       95.1%       equal to
                                                                                                          95.0%
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
     Authorization           98.0%    Great than or            N/A            N/A       97.9% to   Less than or
           Accuracy                   equal to 98.0%                                       95.1%       equal to
                                                                                                          95.0%
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
          Date of Claim      98.0%    Great than or            N/A            N/A       97.9% to   Less than or
           Accuracy                   equal to 98.0%                                       95.1%       equal to
                                                                                                          95.0%
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    NOD Timeliness           182.0    Less than or        136.6 to       154.8 to       182.1 to   Greater than
                                      equal to 136.5         154.7          182.0          227.4    or equal to
                                                                                                          227.5
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
 Form 9 Timeliness           320.0    Less than or        240.1 to       272.1 to       320.1 to   Greater than
                                      equal to 240.0         272.0          320.0          399.9    or equal to
                                                                                                          400.0
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
           Appeal Control Time 7.0    Less than or      5.4 to 6.0     6.1 to 7.0     7.1 to 8.7   Greater than
                                      equal to 5.3                                                  or equal to
                                                                                                            8.8
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
     NOD Inventory        Regional    25.0% better        24.9% to       14.9% to       14.8% to    25.0% worse
                            Office                    15.0% better       Regional    24.9% worse
                                                                     office Target
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


                                           SPECIAL MISSIONS FIDUCIARY
             Indianapolis, Columbia, Louisville, Lincoln, Milwaukee, Salt Lake City Regional Offices
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
 Performance Measure    FY12 Target          O              E              FS             MS             U
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Fid-Ben Appts.           90.0%    Great than or       97.9% to       94.6% to       89.9% to   Less than or
 Pending <= 120 days                  equal to 98.0%         94.5%          90.0%          82.1%       equal to
                                                                                                          82.0%
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Fid-Ben Appts.           92.0%    Great than or       97.9% to       94.7% to       91.9% to   Less than or
   Processed <= 120                   equal to 98.0%         94.8%          92.0%          89.2%       equal to
        days (FYTD)                                                                                       89.1%
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Initial Appts.           90.0%    Great than or       97.9% to       94.6% to       89.9% to   Less than or
 Pending <= 45 days                   equal to 98.0%         94.5%          90.0%          82.1%       equal to
                                                                                                          82.0%
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Initial Appts.           92.0%    Great than or       97.9% to       94.7% to       91.9% to   Less than or
    Processed <= 45                   equal to 98.0%         94.8%          92.0%          89.2%       equal to
        days (FYTD)                                                                                       89.1%
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Accountings Reviewed         94.0%    Great than or       97.9% to       95.9% to       93.9% to   Less than or
     within 14 days                   equal to 98.0%         96.0%          94.0%          90.1%       equal to
                                                                                                          90.0%
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
   Accountings not           95.0%    Great than or       97.9% to       96.6% to       94.9% to   Less than or
          Seriously                   equal to 98.0%         96.5%          95.0%          92.1%       equal to
         Delinquent                                                                                       92.0%
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


                             SPECIAL MISSIONS NATIONAL CALL CENTER (NCC, PNCC, ECC)
   Cleveland, Philadelphia, Columbia, Nashville, Muskogee, St. Louis, Phoenix, Salt Lake City Regional Offices
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
 Performance Measure    FY12 Target          O              E              FS             MS             U
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
          Overall Call Qualit82.5%    Great than or       90.7% to       86.5% to       82.1% to   Less than or
                                      equal to 90.8%         86.6%          82.5%          78.4%       equal to
                                                                                                          78.3%
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
 Technical Quality           75.0%    Great than or       82.4% to       78.7% to       74.9% to   Less than or
                                      equal to 82.5%         78.8%          75.0%          71.3%       equal to
                                                                                                          71.2%
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                  Courtesy/  90.0%    Great than or       97.9% to       94.0% to       89.9% to   Less than or
    Professionalism                   equal to 98.0%         94.1%          90.0%          86.0%       equal to
                                                                                                          85.9%
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Avg. Wait Time           240.0    Less than or        180.1 to       204.1 to       240.1 to   Greater than
          (seconds)                   equal to 180.0         204.0          240.0          299.8    or equal to
                                                                                                          299.9
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                  Client Sati720.0ion Great than or       899.9 to       827.9 to       719.9 to   Less than or
                                      equal to 900.0         828.0          720.0          612.0       equal to
                                                                                                          611.9
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Agent Availability           70.0%    Great than or       73.4% to       71.7% to       69.9% to   Less than or
               Rate                   equal to 73.5%         71.8%          70.0%          68.3%       equal to
                                                                                                          68.2%
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


                                      SPECIAL MISSIONS IRIS RESPONSE CENTER
                                         Salt Lake City Regional Offices
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
 Performance Measure    FY12 Target          O              E              FS             MS             U
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
          Accuracy           85.0%    Great than or       97.9% to       91.4% to       84.9% to   Less than or
                                      equal to 98.0%         91.5%          85.0%          78.6%       equal to
                                                                                                          78.5%
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
        Timeliness             5.0    Less than or      3.7 to 4.3     4.2 to 5.0     5.1 to 6.2   Greater than
                                      equal to 3.8                                                  or equal to
                                                                                                            6.3
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


                                     VOCATIONAL REHABILITATION & EMPLOYMENT
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
 Performance Measure    FY12 Target          O              E              FS             MS             U
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
        Rehab Rate           77.0%    Great than or       89.9% to       83.1% to       76.9% to   Less than or
                                      equal to 90.0%         83.2%          77.0%          70.8%       equal to
                                                                                                          70.7%
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
   Rehab Rate (San           70.0%    Great than or       81.7% to       75.5% to       69.9% to   Less than or
              Juan)                   equal to 81.8%         75.6%          70.0%          64.4%       equal to
                                                                                                          64.3%
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
 S.E.H. Rehab Rate           77.0%    Great than or       89.9% to       83.1% to       76.9% to   Less than or
                                      equal to 90.0%         83.2%          77.0%          70.8%       equal to
                                                                                                          70.7%
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
 S.E.H. Rehab Rate           70.0%    Great than or       81.7% to       75.5% to       69.9% to   Less than or
          San Juan)                   equal to 81.8%         75.6%          70.0%          64.4%       equal to
                                                                                                          64.3%
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
     Actual Rehabs             TBD
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
  Outcome Accuracy           97.0%    Great than or                      97.9% to                  Less than or
                                      equal to 98.0%                        97.0%                      equal to
                                                                                                          96.0%
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
      Avg. Days to            45.0    Less than or    33.9 to 38.3   38.4 to 45.0   45.1 to 56.2   Greater than
        Entitlement                   equal to 33.8                                                 or equal to
                                                                                                           56.3
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Interrupted Status           11.0%    Less than or        10.0% to       10.6% to       11.1% to   Greater than
                                      equal to 9.9%          10.5%          11.0%          11.5%    or equal to
                                                                                                          11.6%
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Avg. Days Evaluation         105.0    Less than or    78.9 to 89.3   89.4 to 105.0      105.1 to   Greater than
  & Planning Status                   equal to 78.8                                        131.1    or equal to
                                                                                                          131.2
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
   Fiscal Accuracy           92.0%    Great than or       97.9% to       94.7% to       91.9% to   Less than or
                                      equal to 98.0%         94.8%          92.0%          89.2%       equal to
                                                                                                          84.6%
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    EPRSA Accuracy           85.0%    Great than or       93.4% to       89.2% to       84.9% to   Less than or
                                      equal to 93.5%         89.3%          85.0%          76.5%       equal to
                                                                                                          76.4%
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
      MRG Accuracy           90.0%    Great than or       97.9% to       94.0% to       89.9% to   Less than or
                                      equal to 98.0%         94.1%          90.0%          86.0%       equal to
                                                                                                          85.9%
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
  Employment Rehab           75.0%    Great than or       82.4% to       78.7% to       74.9% to   Less than or
               Rate                   equal to 82.5%         78.8%          75.0%          71.3%       equal to
                                                                                                          71.2%
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
  Employment Rehab           70.0%    Great than or       76.9% to       73.4% to       69.9% to   Less than or
    Rate (San Juan)                   equal to 77.0%         73.5%          70.0%          66.5%       equal to
                                                                                                          66.4%
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


                                                    EDUCATION
                             Buffalo, Atlanta, Muskogee, St. Louis Regional Offices
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
 Performance Measure    FY12 Target          O              E              FS             MS             U
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                ADC (FYTD) Ori23.0ls  Less than or    17.4 to 19.6   19.7 to 23.0   23.1 to 28.7   Greater than
                                      equal to 17.3                                                 or equal to
                                                                                                           28.8
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                ADC (FYTD)    12.0    Less than or     9.1 to 10.2   10.3 to 12.0   12.1 to 15.0   Greater than
      Supplementals                   equal to 9.0                                                  or equal to
                                                                                                           15.1
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
  Payment Accuracy           97.0%    Great than or   Great than or      97.4% to       96.9% to   Less than or
                                      equal to 98.0%      equal to          97.0%          95.1%       equal to
                                                             97.5%                                        95.0%
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


                                                  LOAN GUARANTY
 Cleveland, Manchester, Atlanta, Roanoke, St. Petersburg, Houston, St. Paul, Denver, Honolulu, Phoenix Regional
                                                     Offices
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
 Performance Measure    FY12 Target          O              E              FS             MS             U
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
      Full Reviews           10.0%    Great than or       12.4% to       11.4% to   10.1% to 7.6%  Less than or
                                      equal to 12.5%         11.5%          10.0%                  equal to 7.5%
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Reviews Timely           95.0%    Great than or       97.9% to       96.6% to       94.9% to   Less than or
                                      equal to 98.0%         96.5%          95.0%          92.1%       equal to
                                                                                                          92.0%
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
      LAPP Reviews             TBD    Great than or                                                Less than or
                                          equal to                                                     equal to
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
      SAPP Reviews             TBD    Great than or                                                Less than or
                                          equal to                                                     equal to
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
 10% Field Reviews           95.0%    Great than or       97.9% to       96.6% to       94.9% to   Less than or
                                      equal to 98.0%         96.5%          95.0%          92.1%       equal to
                                                                                                          92.0%
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Initial SAH Reviews          90.0%    Great than or       97.9% to       94.0% to       89.9% to   Less than or
                                      equal to 98.0%         94.1%          90.0%          86.0%       equal to
                                                                                                          85.9%
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
        AOS Timely           95.0%    Great than or       97.9% to       96.6% to       94.9% to   Less than or
                                      equal to 98.0%         96.5%          95.0%          92.1%       equal to
                                                                                                          92.0%
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
     Non-Routine ACQ         95.0%    Great than or       97.9% to       96.6% to       94.9% to   Less than or
             Timely                   equal to 98.0%         96.5%          95.0%          92.1%       equal to
                                                                                                          92.0%
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
   Loan Production           95.0%    Great than or       97.9% to       96.6% to       94.9% to   Less than or
                                      equal to 98.0%         96.5%          95.0%          92.1%       equal to
                                                                                                          92.0%
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                  Constructio95.0%    Great than or       97.9% to       96.6% to       94.9% to   Less than or
          Valuation                   equal to 98.0%         96.5%          95.0%          92.1%       equal to
                                                                                                          92.0%
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
   Special Adapted           95.0%    Great than or       97.9% to       96.6% to       94.9% to   Less than or
            Housing                   equal to 98.0%         96.5%          95.0%          92.1%       equal to
                                                                                                          92.0%
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Loan Administration          95.0%    Great than or       97.9% to       96.6% to       94.9% to   Less than or
                                      equal to 98.0%         96.5%          95.0%          92.1%       equal to
                                                                                                          92.0%
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


                                                    INSURANCE
                                          Philadelphia Regional Office
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
 Performance Measure    FY12 Target          O              E              FS             MS             U
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                  Client Sati98.0%ion Great than or            N/A            N/A       97.9% to   Less than or
                                      equal to 98.0%                                       95.1%       equal to
                                                                                                          95.0%
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


                                            RECORDS MANAGEMENT CENTER
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
 Performance Measure    FY12 Target          O              E              FS             MS             U
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
PIES Turnaround Time          25.0    Less than or    18.9 to 21.3   21.4 to 25.0   25.1 to 31.2   Greater than
                                      equal to 18.8                                                 or equal to
                                                                                                           31.3
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
PIES % over 180 days          5.0%    Less than or    3.9% to 4.3%   4.4% to 5.0%   5.1% to 6.2%   Greater than
                                      equal to 3.8%                                                 or equal to
                                                                                                           6.3%
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


                                            APPEALS MANAGEMENT CENTER
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
 Performance Measure    FY12 Target          O              E              FS             MS             U
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
          Accuracy           90.0%    Great than or       97.9% to       94.6% to       89.9% to   Less than or
                                      equal to 98.0%         94.5%          90.0%          82.1%       equal to
                                                                                                          82.0%
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
      Homeless ADP            70.0    Less than or    52.6 to 59.5   59.6 to 70.0   70.1 to 87.4   Greater than
                                      equal to 52.5                                                 or equal to
                                                                                                           87.5
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
         Inventory          17,500    Less than or        13126 to      14,876 to      17,501 to   Greater than
                                          equal to          14,875         17,500         21,857    or equal to
                                           131,125                                                       21,858
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
% Pending > 2 Years           0.0%    Great than or            N/A            N/A   1.0% to 1.9%   Less than or
                                      equal to 0.0%                                                equal to 2.0%
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
% Pending > 1 Year           10.0%    Less than or    7.6% to 8.5%   8.6% to 10.0%      10.1% to   Greater than
                                      equal to 7.5%                                        11.5%    or equal to
                                                                                                          11.6%
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
        % Past Due            8.0%    Less than or    6.1% to 6.8%   6.9% to 8.0%   8.1% to 9.2%   Greater than
                                      equal to 6.0%                                                 or equal to
                                                                                                           9.3%
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
               ADP           160.0    Less than or        120.1 to       136.1 to       160.1 to   Greater than
                                      equal to 120.0         136.0          160.0          199.8    or equal to
                                                                                                          199.9
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                ADC (FYTD)   270.0    Less than or        202.6 to       229.6 to       270.1 to   Greater than
                                      equal to 202.5         229.5          270.0          337.2    or equal to
                                                                                                          337.3
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                  Congressionals10    Less than or    Less than or             10   Less than or   Greater than
            Pending                     equal to 7      equal to 9                   equal to 11    or equal to
                                                                                                             12
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                  Congressionals 0               0               0              0              2              5
  Pending > 30 days
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
        Production          30,000    Less than or       22,501 to      25,501 to      30,001 to   Greater than
                                          equal to          25,500         30,000         37,470    or equal to
                                            22,500                                                       37,471
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                % Control Tim85.0%7   Great than or       93.4% to       89.1% to       84.9% to   Less than or
               days                   equal to 93.5%         89.3%          85.0%          80.8%       equal to
                                                                                                          80.7%
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
       Remand Rate           10.0%    Less than or    7.6% to 8.5%   8.6% to 10.0%      10.1% to   Greater than
                                      equal to 7.5%                                        12.5%    or equal to
                                                                                                          12.6%
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

B. Additional Priorities
    Additional priorities, not specifically identified in this 
document, which may be established by VA Leadership, will also be used 
to evaluate performance in Element I.

    Fully Successful--Meets Performance Expectations

II. Workplace Responsibilities (Critical Element)
    Weight: 15%
    In support of Strategic Goals: 1, 3, 4
    In support of Integrated Strategies: 1c, 3a, 3b, 3c, 3d

    Where appropriate, the Director promotes and maintains an effective 
labor-management relations program. Creates and maintains a working 
environment that is free of discrimination and one that assures 
diversity and inclusion in the workplace. Ensures that plans exist and 
are adequately implemented to recruit, select, train, coach, retain, 
motivate, empower, and advance employees; and promotes the needs and 
goals of the individual and the organization. Provides a safe, healthy 
work environment. Appropriately appraises, rewards and addresses 
employee performance and conduct deficiencies. The following 
performance indicators identify professional behavior and outcomes that 
may occur during the course of a rating cycle. The Rating Official may 
consider any combination of these indicators--or any other indicators 
as appropriate--to support the evaluation performance.

       1. Maintain a healthy and safe work environment;
       2. Ensure that the determination process used to identify the 
``Best Qualified'' candidates is effective and that selections are made 
from this pool of candidates;
       3. Promote workforce diversity through their recruitment, 
coaching and developmental activities, consistent with merit system 
principles;
       4. Retain highly qualified employees;
       5. Implement and communicate the performance plans for each of 
their employees, and inform them as to their progress in relation to 
their individual performance plans;
       6. Use the performance recognition system to reward employees 
and improve productivity;
       7. Respond to employees who exhibit performance or conduct 
deficiencies;
       8. Ensure that the organization's training requirements are met 
and that employees receive training that supports their professional 
growth;
       9. Implement professional developmental strategies that enhance 
the organization's recruiting strategies or existing workforce.
       10. Provide employees with transitional, coaching or mentoring 
support that increase the employees' likelihood of success;
       11. Maintain effective communications and working relationships 
with labor representatives, to include exploration and implementation 
of cooperative labor management forums as outlined under Director Order 
13522.
       12. Participate in the organization's workforce planning, 
innovative recruiting, or development of effective interviewing 
strategies, as applicable.

    Evaluation Method: EEO, Diversity and Inclusion
    (Ensures compliance with applicable equal employment opportunity 
(EEO) laws, regulations, Director Orders, Management Directives, and VA 
policies; promptly addresses allegations of discrimination and 
retaliation; engages in early conflict management and alternative 
dispute resolution (ADR); and advances the goals of the VA Diversity 
and Inclusion Strategic Plan, including meeting the Secretary's two 
percent hiring goal for individuals with targeted disabilities.)
    Fully Successful Performance Evaluation: Meets expectations for EEO 
Compliance, and specifically, the actions addressed below:

       1. Within five business days of issuance, posts and disseminates 
VA's EEO, Diversity, and No FEAR Policy Statement. Responds to requests 
for information related to EEO complaints within five business days.
       2. Processes and provides effective reasonable accommodations 
within 30 days from request and in accordance with VA Directive 5975.1. 
Within the performance cycle, at least 50 percent of the time, 
complaints are resolved at the informal stage.
       3. Complies promptly and effectively with EEO and ADR settlement 
agreements and corrective actions ordered by the Equal Employment 
Opportunity Commission and final agency decisions.
       4. By September 30, ensures compliance, as follows, for 
mandatory EEO-related training:

        At least 90% of all employees complete the biennial No 
FEAR training requirement; new hires will complete training within 90 
days of hire and every 2 years thereafter; and
        At least 90 percent of supervisors/managers complete 
mandatory on-line EEO, Diversity, and Conflict Management training

    Performance is acceptable if there are no documented instances 
where, based on objective findings, the Director failed to meet the 
stated expectation and where no mitigating circumstance exists.
    Evaluation Method: Early Conflict Management and Alternative 
Dispute Resolution
    Fully Successful Performance Evaluation: Meets expectations, and 
specifically, the actions addressed below:

       1. By September 30, collaborates with key stakeholders, i.e., 
labor, human resources, general/regional counsel, and develops and 
implements an ADR program that is widely communicated and marketed to 
the workforce. If an ADR program exists, the program is marketed and 
communicated to the workforce on a quarterly basis.
       2. On a quarterly basis, evaluates the use of and satisfaction 
with the ADR program and monitors positive and negative trends 
impacting the program. Develops and implements action plans to address 
negative trends; i.e., low participation - below 48%, low ADR 
resolution - below 50%, high ADR processing time - more than 60 
calendar days.

    Performance is acceptable if there are no documented instances 
where, based on objective findings, the Director failed to meet the 
stated expectation and where no mitigating circumstance exists.
    Evaluation Method: Workforce Diversity and Inclusion
    Fully Successful Performance Evaluation: Meets expectations, and 
specifically, the actions addressed below:

       1. Within agreed upon timeframes, submits Federally mandated EEO 
reports (e.g., MD 715, FEORP, DVAAP, etc.) that contain accurate, 
comprehensive, and meaningful accomplishments, along with measureable 
goals and objectives.
       2. By September 30, participates in at least two targeted 
outreach events to increase diversity in the applicant pool or two 
special emphasis programs to support workforce diversity and inclusion 
initiatives.
       3. On an ongoing basis, actively supports VA Diversity Council 
and implemented initiatives to support work/life balance.
       4. By September 30, meets Secretary's two percent hiring goal 
and VA's two percent on-board representation goal for individuals with 
targeted disabilities.
       5. By September 30, demonstrates measurable progress in 
implementing the goals of the VA Diversity and Inclusion Strategic 
Plan.

    Performance is acceptable if there are no documented instances 
where, based on objective findings, the Director failed to meet the 
stated expectation and where no mitigating circumstance exists.
    Evaluation Method: Hiring Reform
    Fully Successful Performance Evaluation: Meets expectations to 
support OPM's Hiring Reform Initiative, and specifically, the action 
addressed below:
    Implements recruitment, retention, and developmental strategies 
that support organizational performance objectives, agency hiring 
goals, and successful transition of highly qualified employees into 
Federal service or new positions.
    Ensures subordinate supervisors (if applicable) meet all timeframes 
and deadlines established for supervisors in the Agency's recruitment 
and hiring plan.
III. Program Integrity (Critical element)
    Weight: 10%
    In support of Strategic Goals: 3
    In support of Integrated Strategies: 1a, 1c, 3a, 3e
Sub-element 1: Compliance
    The Director will lead his or her regional office to ensure 
compliance with VBA's program integrity directives. The Director is 
responsible to ensure that program integrity initiatives and policies 
are implemented, assessed through an effective internal control 
process, and adjusted as necessary to achieve appropriate results.
    Evaluation Method: Adherence to IG Recommendations applicable to 
VAROs as outlined in VBA Letter 20-99-68, Adherence to VBA Program 
Integrity Directives.
    Fully Successful Performance Evaluation: Meets Expectations
Sub-element 2: Information Security
    Directors must exercise due diligence in their efforts to plan, 
develop, coordinate and ensure accountability and control of government 
property and implement effective information security procedures as 
identified by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), the National 
Institute of Standards and Technology, VA policies, and VBA policy and 
guidance documents Directors must improve internal communications and 
information security requirements and reiterate responsibilities to 
employees.
    Fully Successful Performance Evaluation: Meets expectations to 
support Information Security, and specifically, the action addressed 
below:

    Performance will be satisfactory if all required program integrity 
safeguards are implemented, monitored and on-site reviews do not reveal 
critical flaws in oversight of program integrity issues. In addition, 
the Director is responsible for:

       1. Ensuring that Information System (IS) security plans that 
safeguard systems within their authority exist and are implemented in 
accordance with NIST and OMB guidelines.
       2. Ensuring that all operations under their authority prepare, 
document, test and maintain IT contingency plans (i.e. COOP, BCCP).
       3. Ensuring that annual risk assessments are conducted for each 
identified IS (applications, hardware, software, etc.) within their 
jurisdiction to ensure that the identified risks, vulnerabilities, and 
threats are adequately addressed by appropriate security controls.
       4. Ensuring that all employees comply with departmental training 
requirements and are trained to understand their information security 
responsibilities.
       5. Complying with established procedures for detecting, 
reporting and responding to information security incidents.
       6. Improve internal communications of privacy and information 
security requirements and policy adherence, and reiterate 
responsibilities to employees.
       7. By 30 September, 100% of employees receive Privacy training. 
New employees receive the training 90 days from their appointment date. 
This measure is tracked and reported by the CIO.
       8. By 30 September, 100% of employees receive Cyber Security 
training. This measure is tracked and reported by the CIO.

    Performance is acceptable if there are no documented instances 
where, based on objective findings, the Director failed to meet the 
stated expectation and where no mitigating circumstance exists
    Evaluation Method: Ensure accountability and control of government 
property.
    Fully Successful Performance Evaluation: Meets expectations to 
ensure sensitive data is neither mismanaged nor used for any 
unauthorized purpose, and specifically, the action addressed below:

       1. By 30 September, conducts annual risk assessments and 
inventory of property to ensure 95% accountability in accordance with 
VA policy.
    Performance is acceptable if there are no documented instances 
where, based on objective findings, the Director failed to meet the 
stated expectation and where no mitigating circumstance exists
IV. External Relations (Non-critical element)
    Weight: 5%
    In support of Strategic Goals: 2
    In support of Integrated Strategies: 1e, 2a, 2b, 2d, 3a

    Evaluation Method: The director builds effective, productive 
relationships with organizations external to VBA in order to further 
VA's goals and interests. Enhances external satisfaction by handling 
complaints effectively and promptly and ensures a veteran focus in 
direction and daily work. Uses veteran and other stakeholder feedback 
in planning and providing services and encourages subordinates to meet 
or exceed veteran and stakeholder needs and expectations. Examples of 
activities, include, but are not limited to the following.

       1. Work on a Federal Director Board project
       2. Participation in VISN meetings
       3. Relations with the media, congressional offices and service 
organizations
       4. Engage in ongoing outreach activities (i.e., stand-downs, POW 
outreach, etc.) to ensure targeted populations of veterans are 
appropriately served (Strategic Goal 3.2)

    Fully Successful Performance Evaluation: Meets expectations to 
maintain an effective means to receive, evaluate and resolve veteran 
and stakeholder feedback. Tracks data to identify and correct issues. 
Performance is acceptable if the rater receives no more than 2 
sustained complaints based on failure to effectively and promptly 
address needs of external organizations.
V. Acquisition Process (Non-critical element)
    Weight: 5%
    In support of Strategic Goals: 1
    In support of Integrated Strategies: 1d, 3d, 3e

    Ensures the Department-wide Small Business Program Goals for Small 
Businesses, Small Disadvantaged Businesses, Women-Owned Small 
Businesses, Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Businesses, Veteran-
Owned Small Businesses and Historically Underutilized Business (HUB) 
Zone Small Businesses, are considered in VBA acquisitions.
    Evaluation Method: Periodic review of acquisition packages.
    Fully Successful Performance Evaluation: Meets expectations to 
support the acquisitions process through Department-wide Small Business 
Program Goals by ensuring acquisitions are directed to appropriate 
sources.
VI. Action Plans - All Employee Survey (Non-critical element)
    Weight: 5%

    Develops, implements and successfully completes an action plan 
methodology to address All-Employee Survey results, to include:

      Identified issues
      Actions
      Target Dates
      Responsible Parties
      Expected Outcomes
      Accomplishments since last update
      Linkage to other organizational initiatives
      Status

    Evaluation Method: Periodic review of progress towards goals 
outlined in action plan
    Fully Successful Performance Evaluation: Meets performance 
expectations expected outcomes and accomplishments since last update.

    Prepared by: Office of Field Operations
    Distributed: October 14, 2011

                                 
                   Materials Submitted For The Record
                    Setting up an eBenefits Account
    eBenefits is a joint VA/DoD web portal that provides resources and 
self-service capabilities to Veterans, Servicemembers, and their 
families to research, access and manage their VA and military benefits 
and personal information. eBenefits uses secure credentials to allow 
access to personal information and gives users the ability to perform 
numerous self-service functions. It also provides links to other sites 
that provide information about military and Veterans benefits. Some of 
the self-service features in eBenefits allow users to: access official 
military personnel documents; view the status of a disability 
compensation claim; transfer entitlement of Post-9/11 GI Bill to 
eligible dependents (Servicemembers only); and register for and update 
direct deposit information for certain benefits.
    eBenefits is located at www.ebenefits.va.gov. To register for an 
eBenefits account, users must be listed in the Defense Enrollment 
Eligibility Reporting System (DEERS) and first obtain a DoD Self-
service (DS) Logon. A DS Logon is a secure identity (username and 
password) that is used by various DoD and VA web sites. If a user is 
already registered in DEERS, they are eligible for a DS Logon, which 
does not have an expiration date. If an individual attempts to register 
without a DEERS record, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) will 
first verify military service and add the individual to DEERS. This 
occurs most often among Veterans who served prior to 1982. Individuals 
should contact a VA regional office for assistance in being added to 
DEERS or call our National Call Center at 1-800-827-1000.
    Registration for an eBenefits account online can be done using the 
eBenefits DS Logon Account Self-Registration Wizard. There are two 
types of registration, Basic and Premium. Users will be walked through 
a series of questions to assist in obtaining a Premium eBenefits 
Account, which provides the highest level of access to eBenefits 
features. With a Premium Account, users can view personal data in VA 
and DoD systems, apply for benefits online, check the status of a 
claim, update address records, and complete other actions.
    Servicemembers may register online by using their Common Access 
Card. Military retirees may verify their identity online using their 
Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS) Logon. For those unable 
to verify their identity online, they will instantly receive a Basic 
Account, which allows users to customize the site and access 
information entered into eBenefits; however, personal information from 
VA and DoD systems cannot be viewed.
    Additionally, Veterans in receipt of VA benefits via direct deposit 
may have their identity verified by calling 1-800-827-1000 and 
selecting option 7. My HealtheVet users may use their secure My 
HealtheVet identity to obtain an eBenefits account. Others may need to 
visit a VA regional office or TriCare Service Center to have their 
identity verified in person.
    Benefits Assistance Service
    July 2012

                                 
                 Claim Status Availability in eBenefits
    Veterans have been able to view the status of claims within 
eBenefits since April 2010. This is the most popular self-service 
feature within eBenefits, receiving over 9.1 million views to date.
    Claim status is divided into specific phases that reflect where the 
claim is in the process, how long the Veteran can anticipate the claim 
should remain in each phase, and ultimately a timeframe for completion 
as shown below. Timeframes are calculated based on the type of claim 
filed and are specific to each regional office.

[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] T8766.001


    Prepared by Benefits Assistance Service
    September 24, 2012