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JANUARY 26, 2014


Oakland VA Claims - an engineered disaster
appearances: January 5, 2014  January 26, 2014

Our Guest: Anthony Silveria   

Anthony Silveria is a Former Marine military police/disabled veteran employee removed from employment by director for reporting harassment, discrimination based on disability, increased surveillance, and hostile work environment. Whistle blower and NO FEAR act not protecting disabled veterans from harassment for going out sick per doctors’ orders for incapacitating episodes due to exacerbation of disabilities by hostile work environment.  Military service background and accomplishments:

Anthony's credentials: United States Marine Corps (1990-1999)
Military Police, K-9 (Military Working Dog), SWAT (Special Weapons Assault Team)
Accident Investigator, DOD (Department of Defense) Instructor, Manager of MWD Kennels
Military Awards and accolades:
Joint Service Commendation Medal, Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal, Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal, Air Force Achievement Medal, Good Conduct Medal 3rd Award, Navy and Marine Corps Unit Citation, Air Force Outstanding Unit Ribbon, National Defense Medal, Certificate of Recognition 3rd Award, Meritorious Mast 4th Award, Certificate of Appreciation 5th Award, Certificate of Achievement, Secretary of the Navy Letter of Commendation, and Letter of Appreciation 19th Award (DD214)
US Marine Corps Meritorious promotions:
Private First Class (Squad Leader throughout boot camp) June 2, 1990
Lance Corporal (#1 Graduate, Military Working Dog [MWD] Detector Course) January 15, 1991
Corporal (Won meritorious selection board, but promoted by time in grade) December 1, 1992
Sergeant (Meritorious Promotion through board selection at the base level, Marine of the Year, Marine Corps Air Station, Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii) August 2, 1993
Superior Physical Performance Award April 6, 1993 and June 1, 1993
Provided personal protection of the Presidents of the United States; President Bush Senior and President Clinton, Vice President of the United States Gore, and other foreign and domestic dignitaries of various diplomatic affiliation
SWAT School, Honor team (#1 Graduating team), Special Reaction Team, and Fort McClellan, Alabama February 7, 1992
7th Annual Police Canine Competition at Schofield Barracks, awarded: 1st place Overall Top Dog, 4th place Narcotics Detection, 4th place Obedience, 2nd place Scouting, 1st place Controlled Aggression with MWD Rex 279C (Top Kennel Awarded to Marine Corps Air Station Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii) 1993
Military Policeman of the Quarter, Provost Marshall’s Office, Headquarters & Headquarters Squadron, Marine Corps Air Station, Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii June 30, 1993
Marine of the Month, Headquarters & Headquarters Squadron, Marine Corps Air Station, Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii June 30, 1992
Marine of the Quarter, Marine Corps Air Station, Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii October 23, 1992
Noncommissioned Officer of the Month, Headquarters Squadron, Marine Corps Air Station, Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii June 30, 1993
Noncommissioned Officer of the Quarter, Headquarters Squadron, Marine Corps Air Station, Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii June 30, 1993
Top Honor Graduate, Sergeants Leadership Course, Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii, 1993.
Planned and performed over 200 MWD demonstrations for Congressional Staffers, Foreign Dignitaries, and charitable civilian organizations as Assistant NCOIC for Military Working Dog Demonstration Team, 341st Training Squadron, 37th Training Group, 37th Training Wing, Lackland Air Force Base 1994 – 1996
K-9 Instructor and trainer for Joint Task Force 6, Mission JT650-97, in support of Virgin Islands Police Department, located a Kilo of Cocaine onboard a civilian vessel, March – April 1997.
US Marine Corps Team Sports Experience:
Football – All Marine Team, Kaneohe Bay – 1992
All Marine Team, Camp Pendleton – 1998 and 1999
Volleyball – Base champion, Lackland Air Force Base – 1996 (Coach and player)
Department of Veterans Affairs performance awards and last performance appraisal:
1. Performance award, 12/10/10, exceptional performance.
2. Performance award, 5/18/11, exceptional performance.
3. Performance award, 6/21/12, exceptional performance.
4. Most recent Performance appraisal dated December 3, 2012, Performance appraisal states I am fully successful in all areas except for Cooperation and Organizational Support. Immediate supervisor explained why I was exceptional, stating, “Mr. Silveria meets the exceptional level for performance for Cooperation and Organization Support because he is fully supportive. As a member of the Innovation Team and a new RVSR, he participated in several initiatives to assist the office in resolving the claims that were pending the longest and readily suggestions for improvement in processes/procedures as he identified areas where improvement was needed. Mr. Silveria also remained flexible as the workload of the Innovation Team increased in both volume and complexity as necessitated by the workload for the RO.”

Here are some of the topics we will be discussing today on the program:

1. Veterans are not aware of the benefits they are entitled to receive or how to properly apply for those benefits according to the constantly changing VA process. The laws have not changed as much as the process has changed in the past 5 years. The VA keeps making changes to the process without consulting or informing Veterans.

a. Decisions made to change the Veteran’s claims process are not tested or forecasted based on factual data creating constant change that is not needed and causing more confusion for the employees and Veterans.

b. Once you understand what you have to submit VA changes the requirements for no observable reason; the result further convolutes the claims process. Example: Disability Benefits Questionnaires (DBQs) were implemented to make the process easier. In practice, these DBQ evaluations are not recognized, therefore doctors opinions are not being honored per the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR). Specifically 38 CFR Part 3 and 4.

2. The VBMS computer system is a flop. It is down most of the time and there are thousands of unassociated documents that are related to claims. These unmatched remnants are often the pieces of the puzzle causing claim delays and denials for lack of evidence.

3. The constant shift in claims inventory does not reflect the accurate numbers. Completing a partial rating on a claim and deferring issues to be worked if the Veteran responds while the claim is being sent to be scanned in at a scan site is not reflective of “working down the backlog” rather doing a little now and shifting the inventory to an untracked status and hoping the Veterans don’t reply or read their paperwork is devious. It is not helping the Veterans or remotely honest business. It does, however, allow the VA to show improvement in process time and lower numbers in aging of claims.

4. The VA should make sure the claim is completed correctly the first time! If there is a need to defer a condition, that claim should be diligently completed, not made into a non-tracked EP (End Product - used to identify claims in the system). EP 930s are copious and there are claims going back 2 years, yet there are reports from the VA that the back log has been worked. How is that possible if there are claims (non-rating board) that are over 2 years old are still in the system? How is the backlog worked down if the appeals are growing? Shifting inventory!

5. Appeals and reworked claims are growing due to the “provisional” ratings and other pilot programs that were not well thought out. It creates further confusion and continues to mask the problem of claim delays and claim aging for purposes of tracking. This is why the successful production numbers touted by the VA do not match the experience of the Veterans or the County Veteran Service Offices who assist them.

a. Exam results are being changed. I (Tony) had my personal hearing loss/tinnitus medical opinion changed without an explanation. The file was sent back to the doctor after the exam and first opinion was already rendered. The first opinion of the doctor was in my favor. After the file went back to the doctor for a different opinion it returned with the exact opposite opinion. MEDICAL EXAMS SHOULD NOT BE COERCED! Now I have to reapply for the disability benefit and have to do so within one year of the notification letter or I lose my date of claim. This means I would not get benefits (or back pay) going back to the date I first claimed the condition. Unless I continuously prosecute my claim, aka ask what is going on with my claim and/or keep the appeal in the correct process without more than a one year gap in communication the original date of claim is forfeited. I am now required to try and prove that the original exam was correct and attempt to fix this forced “error”; it could take years to do this. It is a perfect example of what is clogging up the system with a claim that should have been done correctly the first time. Taking up time that could be used to work another Veteran’s claim…creating a backlog and adding more time to the process every time this happens.

6. Laws, rules and regulations are not being adhered to and are causing a hostile work environment. Employees are not productive in this type of environment as demonstrated by a high turnover rate and the recent increase in PIPs (Performance Improvement Plans) for recently released trainees who have not been properly trained. We have lost many highly qualified and stellar employees due to the poorly managed office. Even though we have reported the problems in many different ways to several different agencies, the problems are covered up by the managers in a dishonest manner, causing more problems each and every time. Employees under duress from hostile co-workers, bad management, practices that ultimately hurt the Veterans they are supposed to serve all contribute to a very hostile work environment.

7. Management has created a culture of bullying, coercion, and harassment of anyone who states that there is ANY type of problem.

8. Brokering claims (sending them to be worked at other centers) that are currently in the process at the regional office (RO) rather than brokering new claims that have not had any work done creates needless delays. It is counterproductive to have the same claims reviewed repeatedly for status and then the same actions taken at two different locations by two different employees.

9. Records are sent out to be scanned from paper to electronic form. This process typically takes about 15 days. The scan sites are not providing accurate scan numbers. There is a batch of claims from March 2013 through May 2013 that are missing. They are not at the scan site and yet it has been over 10 months. Where are these files?

10. Repeat Compensation & Pension (C&P) exams are being ordered for minor medical opinions requiring the Veterans to attend several extra exams.

11. Do a Google search for “May 10, 2012, VA Office of the Inspector General, Oakland Regional Office results”. Problems reported by the VA OIG regarding the VA Oakland RO in May 2012. Some are covered in the following:

a. Proper mail control has been a constant problem; the documents sent in from the Veterans are not being put under control, timely or at all in some instances.

12. There has been mandatory overtime for Veterans Service Representatives (VSR), Rating Veterans Service Representative (RVSR) and Decision Review Officers (DRO) level employees for the past four years at the Oakland VA. The Resource Allocation Model (RAM) indicates this is necessary but it comes from the Central Office (headquarters for the VA) and is really just the result of poor management.

13. Employees have questions during training and those questions have been put in a “question parking lot” to never be answered or broached again. Then the employee is held accountable to make sense of the unanswered question and apply the information to the work at hand.

14. There is a marked difference between the National training on the regulations and US Code and the regional office way of interpreting the information. There should be no difference! This causes confusion when the trainees begin to work actual claims. It causes errors and forces the Veterans to repeatedly seek the benefits they are entitled due to the improper or lack of proper training.

15. Abuse of authority causes problems in the work environment and affects the production daily, monthly and annually. Management bullying of specific individuals who speak up or try to organize the union for necessary meetings regarding the morale, prohibited personal practices, or problems with the brokering of claims, or thousands of suddenly “found” claims. Management is able to quash all attempts by employees to reach out for help.

16. There is a dramatic misuse of resources. Employees are assigned to work specific claims that are not in order of priority. Claims are chosen based on the numbers the management wants to achieve.

17. Waste of funds for VBMS (computer system) and poorly planned scanning as well as other failed programs that are not properly planned before they are implemented. Examples: $150 Million for VMBS and $52 Million for a first contract development project that flopped.

18. Reasonable accommodations not provided to disabled Veterans or civilians in some cases and in all cases accommodations are not provided in a timely manner (always beyond 30 days). The need for the reasonable accommodations and the lack of the accommodations effects employee morale and production. This translates into a bigger backlog and longer claims process.

19. There is NO means for conflict resolution. All avenues are blocked by management, the EEO program manager, the HR liaison and the union which creates an environment that is in constant conflict. Prohibited Personnel Practices effect production and the overall work environment. Please google “Prohibited Personnel Practices”.

Related news articles:
• The National News, USA Today Weekend, January 17-19, 2014 “Up to 48,000 Afghan, Iraq Vets Homeless” Gregg Zoroya, USA Today (Homeless Vets grown from 15000 in 2011 to 46000 in 2013)
• SF Chronicle (, Thursday, December 20, 2012, “Veterans die waiting for benefits” Aaron Glantz, Center for Investigative Reporting
• The Sacramento Bee (, Monday, May 21, 2012, “AFGE Calls for Improved Management and Increased Resources to Address the VA’s Disability Claims Backlog” American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) employee union
• The Washington Examiner (, February 4, 2013, “Veterans Administration IG says new computer system (VBMS) riddled with gremlins” Mark Flatten, The Washington Examiner’s Watchdog investigative reporting team.
• The Washington Examiner (, February 26, 2013, “Bipartisan agreement on VA firings needed to speed up vets claims processing” Mark Flatten, The Washington Examiner’s Watchdog investigative reporting team.
• Contra Costa Times and San Jose Mercury News, April 16, 2013, “Veteran’s claims for benefits delayed by crushing VA back log” Gary Peterson, Contra Costa Times and Mark Emmons, San Jose Mercury News
• Contra Costa Times and San Jose Mercury News, April 16, 2013, “VA Backlog by the Numbers” Gary Peterson, Contra Costa Times and Mark Emmons, San Jose Mercury News
• Contra Costa Times and San Jose Mercury News, April 16, 2013, “The War of Waiting” Gary Peterson, Contra Costa Times and Mark Emmons, San Jose Mercury News
• Oakland Tribune Contra Costa Times ( April 23, 2013, “Ex-VA employees await hearings on harassment, wrongful termination claims” Angela Hill, Oakland Tribune Contra Costa Times
• 60 Minutes, Spotlights Incompetence in the VA, by Roger Shuler Follow, Sunday January 3, 2010
• Bay Area Reporter, July 6, 2009, “Women complain of anti-gay harassment at Oakland VA” Matthew S. Bajko, Bay Area Reporter


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