A leaked document shows nearly one-third of the 847,000 veterans in the Department of Veteran Affairs’ (VA) backlog died while waiting for treatment, amounting to more than 238,000 patients.
This scandal is the latest controversy to engulf the VA since last summer’s scandal at a Phoenix VA hospital that led to congressional hearings. Then Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki resigned when it was revealed that about 40 veterans had died waiting for timely access to healthcare.
Barack Obama knew of the issues plaguing the VA, yet he did nothing about it. Perhaps now he will take the necessary action to ensure our nations veterans receive the care they deserve.
Huffington Post reported:
Scott Davis, a program specialist at the VA’s Health Eligibility Center in Atlanta and a past whistleblower on the VA’s failings, provided HuffPost with an April 2015 report titled “Analysis of Death Services,” which reviews the accuracy of the VA’s veteran death records. The report was conducted by staffers in the VA Health Eligibility Center and the VA Office of Analytics.
Flip to page 13 and you’ll see some stark numbers. As of April, there were 847,822 veterans listed as pending for enrollment in VA health care. Of those, 238,657 are now deceased, meaning they died after they applied for, but never got, health care.
About 81 percent of veterans who come to the VA “have either Medicare, Medicaid, Tricare or some other private insurance,” said West. “Consequently, some in pending status may have decided to use other options instead of completing their eligibility application.”
But Davis disputed West on every point. For starters, an incomplete application would never be listed as a pending application, he said. Beyond that, the health records system West is referring to is just that: general health records, not pending applications for enrollment in health care. The VA has only required enrollment in health care since 1998, he said, and there was no formal application process before that. Davis provided an internal VA chat that shows backlogged applications only beginning in 1998.
“VA wants you to believe, by virtue of people being able to get health care elsewhere, it’s not a big deal. But VA is turning away tens of thousands of veterans eligible for health care,” he said. “VA is making it cumbersome, and then saying, ‘See? They didn’t want it anyway.'”
The documents also show poor record keeping at the agency. In one instance, 2.35 million veterans, whose records amounted to about 13.5 percent of the 17.4 million records total, died but did not have their date of death recorded in the enrollment system. Yet dates of death were recorded in a different information database.
Davis recently sent a letter to Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), who chairs the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, laying out in detail the problems with the VA health care backlog. Davis highlighted that 34,000 combat veterans are among those listed as pending for health care, none of whom should be on that list since combat veterans are granted five years of guaranteed eligibility for VA health care.
“They have no business being there,” he said. “These are men and women who served in Iraq and Afghanistan.”
Davis said the judicious thing for Barack Obama to do, and he has the power to do, is force the VA to allow veterans to upload their so-called DD-214 forms when they apply for health care.
That form is a lifelong document that shows a person’s military record and all pertinent information needed to expedite the process. If veterans could use it to show their eligibility for health care, and if the VA assigned staff to review all of the pending applications, it would clear the backlog in the system.
“The White House has the ability to direct the VA to do this immediately,” said Davis. “That would get rid of the pending eligibility issue.”
Read the full story at Huffington Post
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