VA Mental Health Care Update: The Department of Veterans Affairs has developed a new online Community Provider Toolkit available at www.mentalhealth.va.gov/communityproviders aimed at delivering support, therapeutic tools, and resources to community providers treating Veterans for mental health concerns.
“Many Veterans seek mental health care at VA, yet many also choose to go to providers in their community,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki. “VA is committed to helping Veterans wherever they may seek care. This toolkit will enable those community providers who treat Veterans to better understand the specific issues Veterans face and help them access VA resources.”
Those interested in further information can go to www.mentalhealth.va.gov or www.ptsd.va.gov to find educational materials including courses for providers and best practices in mental health treatment. They can also learn more about the award-winning VA/DoD PTSD Coach Mobile App, which provides education, resources, and symptom monitoring and management strategies. [Source: VA News Release 27 Sep 2012]
VA Fee-Basis Care Update: Fee-basis care may be authorized to treat service-connected disabilities when VA has determined that available VA facilities do not have the necessary services required for treatment; the veteran is not able to access VA health care facilities based on geographic constraints or due to medical emergencies; or when it is economically advantageous to provide treatment using fee basis. These determinations are left to local management because they are in the position to best apply these considerations. All fee requests are reviewed individually to determine the entitlement of veterans in accordance with established Veterans Health Administration guidelines and to determine clinical urgency.
You may be eligible for a fee basis ID card if:
• You have a service connected disability;
• You will need medical services for an extended period of time; or
• There are no VA health care facilities in your area.
On Sept. 14 the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, Subcommittee on Health held a hearing titled, “VA Fee Basis Care: Examining Solutions to a Flawed System.” The meeting opened with the Honorable Ann Marie Buerkle.
According to National Academy of Public Administration (NAPA), VA’s Chief Business Office has exercised limited and ineffective oversight of the Fee Care Program.
There have been some bright spots. Congressionally-mandated pilot programs – Project HERO and Project ARCH – have shown promising results in achieving a more patient centered, coordinated, and cost-effective delivery model for fee care. VA has begun implementing two new initiatives – the Patient-Centered Community Care (PCCC) Program and the Non-VA Care Coordination (NVCC) Program. The Department is going to testify today that these two initiatives will address all of the challenges the Fee Program faces and, “…ensure veterans receive effective and efficient non-VA care seamlessly.”
Most notably, VA lacks the information technology (IT) and administrative services solutions essential to establish in-house the clinical information sharing and electronic claims processing vital to a successful care-coordinated and veteran-centric program. VA spent approximately $4.6 billion dollars to purchase care in the community for veteran patients last fiscal year.
“That is what we are talking about today. And those stories – stories that my colleagues and I hear every day from veterans in our communities who are fed up – are what I want all of us to keep foremost in our minds this morning as we talk about how to make this program better and get it right.” [Source: www.veterans.house.gov/printed-hearings24 Sep 2012]
VA Compensation and Pensions Update: In July 2010, a Department of Veterans Affairs employee named Kristen Ruell was updating a benefit claim when she noticed something odd. What should have been an increase of about $2,000 in a monthly payment to the widow of a veteran showed up on her computer screen as $21,000. After she went digging, what she found surprised and worried her: the department’s database contained duplicate records for the widow, and the system was trying to pay her twice. It was also recommending a retroactive payment dating back months — though the widow had already been paid for that period. After seeing the same problem in other claims, she paid attention to the raised red flags with her bosses. If she, one of scores of payment authorizers nationwide, was just noticing the duplicate payments, was it not likely that the department had inadvertently overpaid many other people for years? Two years later, that concern has not been resolved, so she and several other pension management workers say.
The department says duplicate payments are rare — perhaps fewer than 100 a year. A robust system of checks and balances, human and digital, routinely prevents a vast majority of such payments, said David R. McLenachen, the director of the department’s pensions and fiduciary service.
But the employee and several of her colleagues, who described the problem for a reporter because they felt the department was not addressing it, believe that the duplicate payments are far more common, and costly, than their leadership acknowledges. They say that they see new cases weekly and that the problem also occurs at the department’s other pension centers in Milwaukee and St. Paul. They express frustration that the department seems unable to prevent the creation of new duplicate records that can lead to duplicate payments. And they say their superiors do not consistently try to recoup overpayments — though the department denies that assertion.
The department’s Office of Inspector General has begun looking into it, a spokeswoman said, and a congressman from the Philadelphia area says he will ask that the department provide an accounting of duplicate payments by Oct. 31.
“No one has a real handle on this,” Representative Michael G. Fitzpatrick, a Republican from Bucks County, said in an interview. “The V.A. management appears to believe it is not their responsibility to get our tax dollars back from people who should not have received the money in the first place.”
The duplicate payments are the flip side of the attempt to speedily eliminate a backlog in the processing of claims. Workers say that both delayed payment and overpayment stem from the same circumstances: too few workers trying to process too many claims in too little time. One Philadelphia employee, Ryan Cease, whose job for a time included correcting duplicate records, said it could take hours to fix one. Cease, who says he has found evidence of more than 1,200 duplicate pension records, proposed creating a team to tackle the problem. But supervisors have not responded, he said.
Both management and workers agree that the duplicate payments began about three years ago when the department started shifting from an older computer system to new technology known as the Veterans Service Network, or Vetsnet. With Vetsnet, workers say, the technology has allowed duplicate records. For instance, if a person is listed in the database without a Social Security number, new claims for that person using his or her Social Security number can lead to the creation of a duplicate record in Vetsnet, the workers say.
Duplicate records do not always cause extra payments, the workers noted. But if an unsuspecting claims processor updates a duplicate record — perhaps because the survivor is seeking new or additional benefits — the computer may calculate benefits as if the person had filed a new claim. And that could lead to a second monthly check and a large retroactive payment. Humans may not always catch the computer’s calculations.
The Treasury Department will not issue payments without Social Security numbers. That ensures, he said, that it catches duplicate records when one has a number and one does not. But Ruell says she has discovered cases where the Treasury Department system attached incorrect social security numbers to a survivor’s claim. The result, she said, was a duplicate payment. [Source: New York Times | Jessica Kourkounis | 22 Sep 2012]
Flags: The American Legion Post 70 has on hand American flags, all of the military service flags, POW/MIA flags, and S.C. State flags. Contact a member of Post 70 to purchase flags; the cost is $5.
American Legion Post 70: Meeting at 1800 on the third Tuesday of the month. For more information, please contact Thomas Crisp at 940-2793.
American Legion Post 24: of Newberry, meeting is on the second Tuesday of the month at 1830.
The American Legion Auxiliary – Unit 24: meet the same day at 3 p.m. at Post 24.