Northville, MI (Law Firm Newswire) September 10, 2015 – More than 35,000 combat veterans have had their health care enrollment delayed due to an error in the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) computer system that automatically put them onto a list of pending applications.
The veterans were erroneously put on a waitlist for failing to complete a means test. The VA system requires veterans to fill out a form about household income in order to be considered for health care enrollment. However, the policy does not apply to combat veterans, who are entitled to five years of free health care after discharge.
Around 16,000 of the cases have been pending for more than five years. VA spokeswoman Walinda West said the VA does not have the authority to override the pending status of the applications. The computer system seems unequipped to differentiate between combat and non-combat veterans. The majority of the affected combat veterans have served in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“The VA has created an artificial barrier for thousands of veterans seeking access to health care. Most of the veterans who have been affected are those who completed the enrollment process as they were supposed to, but were still listed as pending for not giving financial information that was not required in the first place,” said Jim Fausone, a Michigan-based veterans attorney.
VA officials have known about the issue since April, according to the Huffington Post. In July, they directed their systems management staff to create a computer script to automatically complete the means test for all waitlisted combat veterans. However, no changes have occurred since the request was issued.
As of Aug. 12, VA employees were contacting affected veterans to inform them of their pending status. They also asked them to fill out a form agreeing to copays in order to enroll in the program, even though they had already completed the paperwork in their original application. West said the VA “sincerely apologizes for the inconvenience” to veterans, and that the department is working to resolve the problem. She would not say whether veterans are making a paperwork error or whether the application system is flawed.
“We know of countless veterans who have died while waiting to be enrolled for health care. The VA needs to streamline the enrollment process as such glitches impact the lives of so many veterans who depend on the VA system to work efficiently while making their needs a priority,” said Fausone.
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