More than a year after a scandal involving secret wait times and care delays within the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) first broke, nearly a third of the veterans that are in the total backlog have already died, according to an internal document leaked to the Huffington Post
An April 2015 review of the agency's veteran death records revealed that as of this April, of 847,822 veterans pending for enrollment in the VA's healthcare system, 238,657 were listed as deceased. Complicating matters, many of the applicants may have been dead for several years, reports the Huffington Post, as the VA has no system of removing dead applicants from its records, and many applicants likely remain on the list despite having never finished their application, according to VA spokeswoman Walinda West.
Moreover, West told the publication, the VA's electronic health record system has been in place since 1985, meaning much of the data may include veterans who transitioned to other insurers in the decades since. More than 80 percent of veterans who apply for VA care are also eligible for Medicare, Medicaid, Tricare or private insurance, she said.
However, Scott Davis, a program specialist at the VA's Health Eligibility Center in Atlanta, who provided the document to the Huffington Post, said these explanations did not explain the death numbers. Incomplete applications, he said, would never be counted as pending, and the VA has only required enrollment since 1988, meaning the backlog could not go back as far as 1985. The possibility of some of the backlog having access to other care, he said, is irrelevant, and the VA bringing it up implies that vets do not deserve the care they earned if they have access to other care.
A June report found little progress on the agency's waitlists, with the number of vets waiting at least one month for care up 50 percent from 2014, and Patient-Centered Community Care, the VA's proposed fix that would allow veterans to seek private care, suffered from similar delays and scheduling issues, FierceHealthcare previously reported.