Will new VA plan fix national veterans backlog caused by Atlanta office?

The Department of Veterans Affairs announced a plan this week it says will fix a pending backlog of veterans who had applications for health care but were never enrolled because of problems at a national health enrollment office in Atlanta.

Credit: Brad Schrade

Credit: Brad Schrade

But the whistleblower who helped expose the problem of more than 800,000 pending health applications in a series of stories in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution in 2014 says the announcement is more of a public relations effort by VA, not a real solution.

"The veterans in the pending backlog are still not aware," said Scott Davis, a program specialist in the National Health Eligibility Center in Atlanta. "VA has chosen not to make modifications in the enrollment system that continues to put Iraq and Afghanistan veterans into the pending backlog."

VA Deputy Secretary Sloan Gibson said in an announcement on Monday that the agency would extend the healthcare enrollment period for veterans in the pending backlog for another year. VA will contact veterans on the list to see if they still want to enroll.

He said in the press release the move was an important step to restore veterans' trust.

"Fixing the veterans enrollment system is a top priority for VA," Gibson said.

Rep. Jeff Miller, chairman of the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs, questioned why it took so long for VA to acknowledge the problem and doing something to fix it.

“While I’m glad VA is finally doing something to address this problem, I’m baffled as to why it took the department so long to acknowledge it," Miller said. "Whistleblowers have been complaining about this issue and others at the department’s Health Eligibility Center for years."

Davis first spoke out in June 2014 in an article in the AJC that resulted in his testimony before Congress regarding a host of problems at the national enrollment office in Atlanta. That led to a Congressional inquiry into the pending backlog and an inspector general's report last September that confirmed the problems highlighted by the AJC's investigation.