According to an internal VA investigation that was made public last week, a whistleblower at the Department of Veterans Affairs prompted an investigation that revealed hundreds of millions in wasted spending and veterans being denied health care.
Specifically, the investigation found that veterans, since at least 2014, have been sent to collection agencies and/or denied healthcare from private providers due to problems with the system used by the VA to pay those private doctors. It also found that roughly $224 million has been spent on improper travel claims – a stipend which the VA will pay to veterans who must travel far distances to seek care at a VA facility.
The federal whistleblower-protection agency, which was responsible for ordering the VA to conduct the investigation, called the $224 million spent on improper travel claims a “gross waste of funds” and expressed concern and frustration over the fact that the VA has known since 2014 that veterans are being sent to collection agencies due to problems with the system used by the VA to pay private doctors.
These problems highlight the persistent issues at the Department of Veterans Affairs, including failures to update outdated computer systems and the confusion and lack of accountability that has come from an increase in the use of private health care among veterans. The complex VA reimbursement system is partially to blame, as the VA either pays private doctors directly or uses a third-party system to pay providers; but there is no continuity and, often times, payments are simply not made to the private doctors. Likewise, the accounting software used for handling travel stipends is extremely antiquated – dating back nearly 30 years – and has resulted in millions of wasted tax dollars. In fact, the software is so old that it has not been in compliance with federal regulations since 2012.
However, despite VA awareness of these issues and the resulting harm being suffered by veterans, the VA does not intend to fully address and clean up the claims process until at least March 2020 and does not anticipate updating its outdated accounting software until 2022. So, problems are bound to continue.
It’s unfortunate that our nation’s veterans – those who dedicated their time and service for the betterment of our country – are being disregarded by the healthcare systems that were specifically implemented for them. The Department of Veterans Affairs should be ashamed of the way our veterans are being treated and should act immediately to correct these problems. Although, if history is any indication, it’s going to be long road ahead.