There’s a reason that U.S. military veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan in Georgia are losing their eligibility for health benefits, says a whistleblower in the Department of Veterans Affairs. Scott Davis, a program specialist at the VA’s enrollment center in Atlanta, has accused officials of sitting on health benefit applications until they expire, leaving approximately 34,000 service members without the benefits.
"This is not an accident, not when you get to those numbers," said Davis, who has previsouly testified as a whistleblower against the agency, according to a Washington Examiner report. "The VA, again, intentionally has artificial barriers to reduce the number of people who can use the system."
Davis’ accusations became public last week, following a year when the Veterans Affairs Department faced a firestorm of criticism over reports that employees at its centers fabricated patient waiting lists in order to show appointment backlogs as shorter than they actually were. Congress’ House Veterans Affairs Committee pledged an investigation, after an internal report showed one in three veterans dying before the centers got around to processing their applications.
We will soon have justice for the 230K Vets who died waiting for VA to process their health care applications! #FixVHA !!!!
— Scott Davis (@ScottDavis_WB) June 14, 2015
Davis said 34,000 veteran benefit applications were delayed because they lacked income information, even though such information is not required when applying. Combat veterans have five years from their date of discharge from service to apply for the benefits, according to the Examiner. The VA had not responded to Davis’ allegations as of Tuesday.
In letters to two Republican members of the House, Davis said the VA's center in Atlanta sent veterans away with incomplete applications and sat on completed forms until they expired after the five-year grace period. Rep. Mike Coffman, R-Colo., the chairman of the House Subcommittee on VA Oversight and Investigation, sent a letter to VA Secretary Robert McDonald about the application backlog on July 10. "[I]t is my understanding that a number of veterans have had their healthcare expire due to inaction by [the] VA," Coffman wrote, according to the Examiner.
The White House sent a delegation to the Atlanta VA center, where Davis works, but did not meet with him or release details about their meetings with officials. "It's been nothing but a cloud of plausible deniability and turning a blind eye since the onslaught of this situation," Davis told the Examiner.