The GAO has repeated in a House hearings concerns it raised in a report last year on the VA’s oversight of outside care providers, saying “the vulnerabilities we identified potentially put veterans at risk of receiving care from unqualified providers.”
The department further “is at risk of fraudulent activity, as some of the providers we identified had previous convictions of health-care fraud,” a witness statement said.
The VA’s use of outside providers has been a growing issue for years and is taking on new importance as the VA has begun a process aimed at closing or realigning some facilities—while opening some new ones—that in part continues to rely on such providers to provide care to veterans where the department does not, or will not, have capabilities.
The testimony noted that of more than 800,000 providers assessed, GAO identified about 50 who were ineligible to work with the federal government, 40 who had a fraud-related judgment or conviction, 200 who had revoked or suspended medical licenses and 800 who had surrendered their licenses pending an investigation.
The controls VA has in place “missed some providers who could have been identified with enhanced controls and more consistent implementation of standard operating procedures,” the GAO said, noting that 600 of the providers listed as active were deceased. Further, its process “did not detect some indicators of potential fraud” such as providers whose only addresses were commercial mail receiving sites.
GAO said that while the VA has “reported taking initial steps toward addressing some” of its recommendations they are not yet implemented, and it called again for the department to carry them out.