Monday, June 13, 2016



By Emilye Bell

It is no secret that the implementation of the Veterans Choice Program, which is meant to give veterans quicker and more flexible access to health care, has been creating a whole new list of problems. Multiple private providers have taken to turning away Choice participants because they are not being paid by the VA.

The reason for this? Typical government bureaucracy and outdated procedures. Rather than taking advantage of technology such as computers or the internet, the VA is using paper filing systems for doctors to fill out when treating a Choice Program participant, as well as using regular mail to communicate back and forth with these doctors. Additionally, when the documentation, which can be up to 75 pages, is returned to VA facilities, “employees then feed the pages into consumer-grade scanners that only take a few pages at a time.” In other words, the VA is utilizing the slowest methods of completing benefit and payment forms during every step of the process.

The Daily Caller and the Government Accountability Office (GAO) reported that in February “VA only paid 66 percent of doctors within a month of entering them into the system, while Medicare and Tricare manage to pay 99 percent of doctors in that time.” They also point out that this does not account for the backlogged claims, so the numbers are probably not painting the full picture.

The staff handling this information say that because of all the paperwork and veterans who are using the Choice Program, they are short staffed. Side note: there are allegations that some of these employees watch movies on the job, then charge overtime for the hours they are actually doing work.

While claims stay backlogged and doctors go unpaid to the point they are turning away patients, the VA is hiring more employees to meet its bureaucratic needs rather than implementing a system that would ensure quicker payment and claims processing. It continues to use a paper system for communicating and benefit processing, stating that it does not “have the capacity to accept medical documentation electronically from the providers.”

We can add VA’s inability to accept electronic documents to their inability to schedule an appointment within 30 days and their inability to fire bad employees.

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