A federal report shows that more than 300,000 veterans died while waiting for their turn to health care.
The VA’s inspector general said Wednesday that inspectors found 307,000 applications of care submitted to the Department of Veterans Affairs by veterans that died months or years before the agency even thought about providing them with an answer.
Nevertheless, investigators explained that some limitations in the database may falsely suggest that some veterans were actively seeking VA health care enrollment, so the number may be smaller.
The VA’s inspector general also disclosed that employers at VA’s Health Eligibility Center sometimes labeled unprocessed applications as being solved and deleted more than 10,000 applications in the process since 2010.
Investigators also found that a veteran who submitted his application in 1998 received the approval in 2013. Moreover, a veteran who died 27 years ago still had an unprocessed application in the VA database last year.
In the last couple of years, a series of journalistic investigations revealed several delays and deaths of veterans before being granted access to health care. But the Wednesday’s report is the first major official investigation to confirm reporters’ findings.
Federal investigators also found flaws in the VA’s procedures to oversee applications, software bugs, and flawed reporting of the veterans who died while their applications were processed.
The findings were also consistent with a 2010 investigation that found VA staffers hid heaps of applications in their desks to be able to look over them later. The VA human resources department refused to discipline them at that time.
Investigators said thousands of veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan were denied their five-year eligibility for care after returning from war because the delays and mismanagement of the health care enrollment data at VA. Although these veterans had priority, they were mistakenly placed in the backlog.
“People who fought, and who earned the right to VA health care, were never given VA health care,”
concluded Scott Davis, one of the VA Health Eligibility Center’s inspectors.
Mr. Davis recalled he notified the VA’s inspector general, some Congress members, Obama administration, and even VA management on the flaws in the eligibility system more than 12 months ago. Yet, no one seemed to listen.
Fortunately, there were several whistleblowers who took the story to the press. VA Deputy Inspector General Linda Halliday recently expressed her gratitude to those people for providing the agency with valuable information during investigation.
VA said that it had sent letters to more than 300,000 veterans asking them whether they planned to enroll for health care. In the meantime, 34,517 submitted the necessary documents and are currently enrolled.