VA scandal: Did officials encourage incomplete applications?

Despite numerous attempts to fix care delays in the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), the system's patient backlog remains high, and internal politics may be to blame, a whistleblower told the Washington Examiner.

VA officials did not tell veterans to submit DD-214 forms, or discharge paperwork, with their applications for healthcare benefits, which Scott Davis, a program specialist at Atlanta's VA enrollment center, speculated may have been an attempt to divert blame for care delays from the VA to incomplete applications. The department, Davis said, was aware of the problem and took no action to address it.

Emails within the VA system obtained by the Examiner support this theory, according to the article. A 2012 email from Lynne Harbin, deputy chief business officer of member services at the VA, seemed to suggest the department actively avoided asking veterans to submit their DD-214 forms. "Interested in hearing what the data shows, but know that politically informing veterans to give us their DD-214 would be unacceptable," Harbin wrote. Similarly, a July 2014 memo described failure to advise vets to include the form in their applications as a "general rule."

In May, Davis accused the VA of using other methods to discard applications as well. "Currently, VA leadership is attempting to implement a rule change that would allow the agency to discard veteran healthcare applications in a pending status, if veterans do not respond to a one-time, letter-mailing campaign," Davis wrote in a letter to Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga).

Earlier this week, Davis also leaked documents showing that,of the 847,822 vets awaiting care within the VA system, nearly one third have died. The VA pointed to the lack of a mechanism for removing dead applicants from its records, FierceHealthcare previously reported.

To learn more:
- here's the Examiner article
- read Davis' letter (.pdf)

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