Vets seeking care died in VA limbo

In 2010, the Veterans Administration rolled out a new online application that promised the nation’s veterans a quick, easy way to access one of the chief benefits of military service: enrollment in the VA’s vast network of hospitals and health care facilities.

Veterans across the country responded.

In fact, the online system did the opposite of what it promised, an investigation by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has found. Instead of making it easier and faster to apply for benefits, the online system sent some veterans who used it into administrative limbo where their applications received no action, delaying their access to health care.

As many as 47,786 veterans whose applications languished in the pending application pool had died, according to the VA’s own records of deceased servicemen and women.

“They lied to veterans,” said Kimberly Hughes, who oversaw the Health Eligibility Center’s informatics division that conducted the internal analysis of the pending applications. “They lied to Congress.”

As a result of the AJC’s questions, a senior VA official in Washington has directed the eligibility staff in Atlanta to devise a plan to contact all veterans with pending applications in the VA system. More than 800,000 applications are pending.

“We need to figure out how to go back and process the entire list of pending applications,” said VA senior executive Philip Matkovsky, “figure out where the veteran resides and get in touch with them and ask them if they want to finish their application.”

Read more about this exclusive AJC investigation at MyAJC.com.

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