In 2010, the Veterans Administration rolled out a new online application that promised the nation’s veterans a quick, easy way to access one of the chief benefits of military service: enrollment in the VA’s vast network of hospitals and health care facilities.
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Snapshot of a Backlog
Hundreds of thousands of U.S. veterans whose service entitles them to be considered for VA health care are caught in administrative limbo. Here’s a breakdown of the ‘pending’ applications overseen by the Health Eligibility Center in Atlanta:
629,282: Applications requiring supporting financial information from a veteran.
259,766: Applications requiring proof of military service from a veteran.
889,048: Total U.S. veterans awaiting access to VA health care.
Source: AJC analysis
HOW WE GOT THE STORY
AJC investigative and Pulitzer-prize winning reporter Brad Schrade obtained and analyzed internal documents from the Health Eligibilty Center in Atlanta showing alarm over the backlog of pending applications from veterans seeking access to VA health care benefits. Schrade tracked down the former HEC employee who first flagged the backlog, and interviewed her about the roadblocks and retaliation she encountered trying to get senior VA leadership to address the problem. Schrade’s previous reporting on the Health Eligibility Center uncovered evidence that veterans health care applications may have been improperly deleted, and prompted the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs in Congress to seek the testimony of the Atlanta whistleblower featured in the story.
Take full advantage of your subscription and log on to MyAJC.com to read the AJC’s previous coverage of the VA scandal in metro Atlanta, and watch videos of whistleblowers who have told their stories to the AJC.