Federal investigators are examining allegations that thousands of veterans who applied for health care benefits had their applications purged improperly by the national Veterans Affairs enrollment eligibility office based in Atlanta, according to VA employees interviewed by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
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About The Health Eligibility Center, Department of Veterans Affairs
- Mission:The Health Eligibility Center is VHA’s authoritative source for enrollment and eligibility activities which supports the delivery of VA health care benefits.
- Vision:The Health Eligibility Center provides national leadership for advancing business practices that support patient care by managing eligibility and enrollment activities for VA’s health care benefits package and services.
- Staff: About 300 full-time employees
- Location: 2957 Clairmont Rd. N.E., Atlanta
Source: Department of Veterans Affairs
The story so far
Earlier this month auditors for the Department of Veterans Affairs reported that veterans across the country faced lengthy delays for care; in some cases veterans waited more than three months to be seen. More damaging, auditors found evidence that VA health care centers deliberately manipulated waiting list records to conceal delays veterans were waiting to be seen.
A criminal investigation is underway in Phoenix over allegations some veterans died before they could be seen by the VA center there. The Atlanta VA has also been singled out for further scrutiny; new patients at the center wait an average of 64 days for primary care, the VA audit found.
Top VA officials, including former VA Secretary Eric Shinseki, have resigned or been terminated in the past two months. Last week, the VA’s acting under secretary for health care and its general counsel announced departures. The House Veterans Affairs Committee, meanwhile, has held hearings on millions of dollars of bonuses awarded to VA executives, despite the problems uncovered at health centers across the country.
Today, the AJC reports that the VA agency that oversees veteran enrollment for access to VA medical care is under investigation for allegations of improper deletion of 17,000 veteran health care applications. A whistleblower alleges the mismanagement stemmed in part because agency leadership was more concerned about bonuses tied to Affordable Care Act enrollment than its core mission of determining health care eligibility for veterans.
About the reporter
Brad Schrade, an Atlanta native with 20 years of journalism experience, rejoined the AJC last fall as an investigative reporter. In 2013, he won a Pulitzer Prize as part of a team at the Minneapolis Star Tribune that uncovered safety breakdowns within the state’s child care system that caused a rash of infant deaths. The series led to system reforms that reduced the number of children dying in care. He has investigated abuse of elderly and vulnerable adults. He worked at the Nashville Tennessean as a reporter and editor where he investigated numerous problems and agencies within state and local government, including corruption in the Tennessee Highway Patrol. Schrade worked as a reporter at the AJC for three years in the late 1990s. He is a graduate of the University of Georgia.