Armed Forces News

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) should take action to determine the eligibility of community-based health care providers, the top federal watchdog agency believes.

A recent Government Accountability Office (GAO) report stated that 1,600 “potentially ineligible providers” – including some who were working despite revoked or suspended medical licenses – took part in a VA program that allows veterans to seek health-care services from community-based providers.

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The GAO research revealed that one provider working under a nursing license that was suspended in 2016 had been arrested for assault in 2018, and was convicted of patient abuse and neglect a year later. Veterans Health Administration (VHA) officials said the provider was uploaded into the VA system by mistake.

Another provider deemed eligible by VHA had his medical license revoked in 2019, and had a record that showed he “posed a clear and immediate danger to public health and safety,” GAO reported.

The agency also uncovered “weaknesses in oversight of … address data.” Further examination revealed that these providers offered commercial mail receiving addresses in their contact information. The practice of doing so has been identified in the past as a means for committing fraud.

“These vulnerabilities potentially put veterans at risk of receiving care from unqualified providers,” GAO wrote. “Additionally, VHA is at risk of fraudulent activity, as some providers GAO identified had previous convictions of health-care fraud.

“VA has an opportunity to address these limitations as it continues to refine the controls, policies, and procedures for this two-year program,” the report stated.

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