A recent internal investigation at VA's Mid-Atlantic Region discovered payments VA owes to non-VA medical care facilities have long gone unpaid. You can read about the recent investigation here.
When veterans have been authorized to receive non-VA care for which VA promises to pay, the payments to those non-VA providers is too often late, sometimes by months or years. While this may violate the Prompt Payment Act, which generally requires agencies to pay suppliers within 30 days, VA's failure to pay its bills on time has worse consequences than that.
Some of these providers who aren't paid on time by VA are small rural or county facilities who do not have a large cash reserve. Some have taken on millions of dollars in unpaid VA bills. But, even that is not the worst of it. When VA fails to timely pay a medical bill for a veteran, guess who is often left responsible for payment? The veteran. Often the care provider will simply pass the bill on to the veteran. The veteran - who rightfully believes this is VA's bill to pay - will often not pay. These unpaid bills often go to collection agencies, unfairly punishing the veteran.
But, it's even worse than that. The reason veterans receive care in the community is usually because the type of care the veteran needs is either not provided by VA or the VA location is hours away from where the veteran lives. Frequently, when VA fails to pay a bill for that care, the non-VA care provider will cut off that veteran's treatment. This means potentially life-saving care could be cut short.
This is also not new. You can read about a similar issue in 2015 here.
Systemwide, VA facilities are definitely understaffed. Many - even if they weren't understaffed - are too far away from veterans who need care. Allowing veterans to seek care from local, non-VA care providers who can provide the treatments those veterans need sounds like a promise to help. However, if VA will not pay those providers on time as promised, that broken promise can have disastrous consequences.
Post by David Tierney