This is an astonishing report from the Huffington Post. According to leaked slides from a Veterans Affairs whistleblower, 238,657 of 847,822 veterans whose enrollments were pending with the VA were “likely deceased.” More than 28% of pending VA health applicants showed up in external databases (external to the VA, that is) as deceased before the VA completed their enrollments. A VA spokesman responded to the report by explaining that some of these now-deceased applicants probably obtained alternative healthcare through Medicare, Medicaid, Tricare, or private insurance. That’s no excuse, the whistleblower told Huffington Post:
As for some vets having other insurance, [Scott Davis] said it is “immaterial and a farce” to suggest that means VA shouldn’t be providing vets with the health care they earned.
“VA wants you to believe, by virtue of people being able to get health care elsewhere, it’s not a big deal. But VA is turning away tens of thousands of veterans eligible for health care,” he said. “VA is making it cumbersome, and then saying, ‘See? They didn’t want it anyway.'”
At a minimum, the high number of dead people on the pending list indicates a poor bookkeeping process that overstates the number of living applicants — a number that should be closer to 610,000.
Poor bookkeeping in government? Knock me over with a feather.
Oh, and just for funsies, the VA says it may start closing hospitals and furloughing employees to help close a $2.5 billion funding gap. Congresscritters are not pleased at the late disclosure since the funds run out September 30 and Congress is about to go on break until September 6.
Lawmakers from both parties faulted the VA for failing to announce the impending shortfall before last month. Lawmakers also criticized the agency for failing to anticipate or fix budget problems, including a failed VA hospital project in Denver that is more than $1 billion over budget.
Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, said he was troubled at “VA’s continued lack of transparency and refusal to be forthright with Congress,” but said, “veterans must not be penalized for VA’s ongoing mismanagement.”
September is going to be a hellish month for Congress. Congress has to pass the 12 annual spending bills (or pass a continuing resolution, kicking the can down the road instead), plus deal with expiring Children’s Health Insurance Program and school lunch programs. And there’s this little thing going on with Iran that will also have a mid-September deadline.