Thursday, September 03, 2015

More than one-third of 867,000 veterans with pending VA applications for health care are dead

Of the 867,000 veterans that had pending applications—as of Sept. 30, 2014—to receive health care from the Department of Veterans Affairs, 307,143 were dead, said a report released Wednesday by the department's inspector general. More than half of the applications—477,000—did not have application dates, which means the watchdog “could not reliably determine how many records were associated with actual applications for enrollment."

Rural areas are home to 5.6 million veterans, and the VA has been criticized for making veterans wait one month or longer for appointments. The VA, which has said it has no way to purge the list of dead applicants, has publicly acknowledged its system needs improvement.

The report, which recommended a total overhaul of the VA record-keeping system that could take years, found that VA workers incorrectly marked thousands of unprocessed health-care applications as completed and "may have deleted 10,000 or more electronic transactions over the past five years," Emily Wax-Thibodeaux reports for The Washington Post.

Scott Davis, a whistleblower and program specialist at the VA enrollment center in Atlanta, "said he told the VA that 34,000 men and women who served in Iraq and Afghanistan are losing their guaranteed five-year eligibility for VA service due to 'systematic obstacles,'" Wax-Thibodeaux writes. "He said that combat veterans are not required to verify their income when applying for VA benefits. But the enrollment applications of 34,000 such veterans were delayed when the VA system classified them as pending."

Linda Halliday, the VA’s acting inspector general, told The Associated Press "that the agency’s Health Eligibility Center 'has not effectively managed its business processes to ensure the consistent creation and maintenance of essential data,'" Wax-Thibodeaux writes.

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