The Department of Veterans Affairs office Inspector General has released a report revealing that about 307,000 sick veterans have died while waiting for care on the VA’s eligibility waiting list. In fact, the report finds that many have been dead for more than four years.
The report confirms the worst-case scenarios about the long VA wait times that have made news reports and sparked questions in Congress since last year.
On Wednesday, the OIG revealed that of the 800,000-some records stalled in the VA’s health care enrollment system, 307,000 veterans have already died anywhere from months ago to more than four years ago.
“As of September 2014, more than 307,000 pending [enrollment system] records, or about 35 percent of all pending records, were for individuals reported as deceased by the Social Security Administration,” the report discovered.
But even that number was disputable because the VA’s databases are in such disarray.
“[D]ue to data limitations, we could not determine specifically how many pending [enrollment system] records represent veterans who applied for health care benefits,” the report continued. “These conditions occurred because the enrollment program did not effectively define, collect, and manage enrollment data.”
The study resulted after whistleblowers warned of the utter mismanagement at the Veteran Affairs offices that included incorrectly making unprocessed applications and the deletion of thousands of records over at least the last five years.
The OIG found one veteran who had been on a waiting list for 14 years and another veteran who died in 1988 but still had unprocessed applications in the VA system.
Scott Davis, a program specialist at the VA Health Eligibility Center, told CNN that millions of veterans are still at risk because of these failures.
“People who fought, and who earned the right to VA health care were never given VA health care,” Davis said. “They literally died while waiting for VA to process their health care application.”
Senate Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Johnny Isakson, a Georgian Republican, and Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, the ranking Democrat on the committee, said the report was disturbing.
“The findings in the Office of the Inspector General’s report point to both a significant failure on behalf of past leadership at the Health Eligibility Center and deficient oversight by the VA central office,” they said on Wednesday. “We urge the VA to implement the inspector general’s recommendations quickly to improve record keeping at the VA and ensure that this level of blatant mismanagement does not happen again.”
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