EHR processing errors cause improper payment of disability benefits to veterans

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs' West Virginia regional office has been improperly paying disability benefits to some veterans, in part because staff is either not inputting information into the electronic health record or is ignoring alerts generated by the system, according to a new report by the VA's Office of Inspector General.

The report, released Nov. 17, audited 30 instances where a veteran was receiving 100 percent disability on a temporary basis. Veterans receiving 100 percent temporary disability benefits are supposed to be medically reevaluated to determine if they're still entitled to the benefits. The EHR generates a reminder notice about the need for the medical exam.

Of the 30 records evaluated, more than half (16) were incorrectly processed. In six of them, the EHR correctly generated the alert to schedule the exam, but VA staff failed to act. In two cases, VA staff failed to even enter the applicable information into the EHR in order to generate the alert.  The 16 processing errors resulted in 51 improper payments to five veterans totally $110,815 from June 2013 to April 2014.

While still problematic, the findings are somewhat of an improvement. The VA OIG's 2011 report found 73 percent incorrectly processed evaluations, the majority of which occurred because staff didn't enter the appropriate information into the EHR to create the reminder.

The West Virginia regional office is one of 56 that provide services to veterans and process disability claims.

The VA has been plagued with problems processing disability claims, at one point incurring a backlog of more than 600,000. The VA's processing issues also extend to its provision of healthcare to veterans, which erupted into a scandal about long wait times and secret appointment lists.

To learn more:
- read the OIG report (.pdf)