On August 17, 2014, I blogged in response to media reports alleging the mishandling of VA enrollment applications. In the short time since my first blog, the staff at the Health Eligibility Center (HEC) in Atlanta, GA, has continued the important task of analyzing our Enrollment System to identify potential issues and to improve the delivery of this critical service to America’s Veterans.
Caring for our nation’s Veterans is the highest honor and privilege for the men and women who serve them at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Our mission is to provide timely access to earned health care and benefits for millions of Veterans. That is a responsibility that we do not take lightly. It is important that we openly discuss how we intend to improve.
VA currently has 8.9 million enrolled Veterans. An analysis conducted on May 15, 2014, of 896,237 pending records (e.g., records that lacked either evidence of qualifying military service or lacked required income information) in the Enrollment System found that 216,736 records had an application date; an indicator that the Veteran applied for enrollment in VA’s health care system. The HEC has continuously reviewed and analyzed Enrollment System pending records over the summer. An analysis on August 18, 2014 found that the Enrollment System pending records population had decreased to 890,905, of which approximately 205,000 records had an application date.
Since mid-August, we conducted further research on pending records which did not have an application date to determine whether any other indicator an enrollment application existed. Toward that end, we conducted an additional study of a small sample of approximately 2,000 records which lacked an application date. In this small sample, we found that approximately 400 had a historical record with indicators that led us to conclude they constituted an application for enrollment. The remaining records in the sample lack a clear indication whether these Veterans had applied. This is an ongoing process of review that is not yet complete.
VA continues the efforts outlined in my August blog to contact those applicants identified as having a record in a pending status (irrespective of whether an application date is present). We have been reaching out to Veterans to let them know the additional information needed so that we may complete their application. As of August 1, 2014, VA has contacted 225,041 Veterans by mail asking them to submit required documents to establish eligibility. To date, VA has received 24,594 responses and enrolled 16,692 Veterans, and outreach efforts are continuing. As we continue our work to contact Veterans, our focus remains on improving the enrollment system to better serve Veterans.
It is also again important to note that VA currently has no legal authority to move records from a pending status even after outreach has occurred and the Veteran has not provided financial information or military records needed to determine eligibility. There are situations in which a Veteran’s record transfers to our Enrollment System even though the Veteran did not apply for enrollment, for example, Veterans applying for State Home Benefits. This pending enrollment records population also includes records of Veterans who received care before the implementation of VA health care enrollment in 1998. Current regulatory guidelines prohibit us from removing these records, resulting in VA leaving them in a pending status.
We continuously share information on enrollment with Network Directors and our partners in the Veterans Service Organizations (VSOs).
At VA, it is our privilege to provide care and benefits to America’s Veterans. Those who have questions about their enrollment may call VA at 1-877-222-VETS (8387) or visit https://www.1010ez.med.va.gov to apply.