CLEARWATER, Fla. (WFLA) — A Tampa Bay area attorney has witnessed the impact of “unwarranted reexaminations” revealed by a VA Office of Inspector General (OIG) investigation.

Reexaminations are ordered after initial exams in some U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) claims cases. According to an OIG report, the second follow-up exams were often “unwarranted” and costly to taxpayers.

Attorney Bill Sterbinsky, a combat veteran who now specializes in VA claims, said he knows of reexaminations ordered after initial exams were “favorable for the veteran.”

“Instead of drafting a decision letter, they’ll do a reexaminiation or they’ll do a record review for some unknown reason,” Sterbinsky said. “It doesn’t make sense and wastes time and money.”

The impact is added costs for the VA and a loss of time for the veteran.

“We’ve seen it delay cases as much six to seven extra months,” Sterbinsky said. “We’ve seen cases where they’re might be a medical opinion in the file and no decision has been rendered sometimes up to a year.”

The OIG investigation released earlier this year indicated how long the problem has existed, and how much it can cost.

You can read the full OIG report here.

OIG investigators found in 2018 “unwarranted reexaminations were requested by VBA claims processors in 37 percent of cases (19,800 of 54,500)” during one six-month period. That cost taxpayers more than $10 million, according to the report.

The problem may have gotten worse since then.

The OIG’s follow-up investigation reported “rating specialists erroneously established reexamination controls about 66 percent” of the time in a group of just under 4,800 cases.

OIG analysis from another sample of more than 22,000 showed “unwarranted reexaminations were requested in about 44 percent” of those cases.

VA leadership agreed with the findings and OIG recommendations to reduce unwarranted reexaminations by improving guidance for processors, to better define processors’ duties and to update training.

The VA’s target completion date for reducing reexaminations is the end of 2023. The target date for the other two recommendations is March 31, 2024.

Sterbinsky hopes the rate of reexamination gets better in the future, but he and his clients are still frustrated by the past.

“You can say you basically on a good day a veteran has a 66 percent chance their claim is going to be handled wrong,” Sterbinsky said. “So, in reverse, you have a 40 percent chance your claim is going to be handled correctly.”