Veterans and service-connected disability status in the Department of Veterans Affairs
Gade, Daniel Macarthur
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The smooth and efficient functioning of government depends on more than just elected officials: millions of bureaucrats report to work each day. Each of these men and women brings values to work with them, and they act upon those values. Representative bureaucracy is, at its core, the study of how and when bureaucrats act upon their own values, and seeks to answer the normative question: how is democracy preserved and enhanced in an environment where unelected bureaucrats make most of the decisions? The bulk of the research on this topic has dealt with racial and ethnic minorities, though recent research has begun to examine issues of sex, gender, sexual orientation, and other minority and non-minority populations. This research expands the representative bureaucracy literature by exploring the potential for representation among Veterans and those with disabilities related to their military service in the US Department of Veterans Affairs disability claims system. Using data from a 2005 study conducted by the VA Office of the Inspector General on Rating Veterans Service Representatives and Decision Review Officers, I show that Veterans tend to approach the claims process with a less claimant-favorable orientation, and tend to place less value on the claimant getting the highest disability rating possible. Rating Veterans Service Representatives also tend to be less claimant-favorable, and greater experience and service-connected disability are associated with a higher likelihood of approaching claims in a claimant-favorable way. I discuss the implications of these findings for the Department of Veterans Affairs and for the further study of representative bureaucracy.