Nearly two years after Arizona whistleblowers warned that former military personnel were dying while they awaited care at Department of Veterans Affairs hospitals, inspectors have concluded the agency's record-keeping is so muddled they cannot reliably say how many patients passed away while backlogged in its national enrollment system.
A VA Inspector General report issued Wednesday was supposed to answer questions from Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, about whether up to 47,000 patients had died while their medical enrollment applications were pending.
Investigators from the Office of Inspector General found that, as of September 2014, the Veterans Health Administration had about 867,000 pending applications from prospective patients. They were unable to break down those numbers due to “serious data limitations,” but estimated that three-quarters of them were created more than five years ago and therefore inactive. The report says more than half of the enrollment forms did not even have application dates.
More significantly, about 307,000 enrollment records -- more than a third of those backlogged -- were from veterans who are listed as dead by the Social Security Administration. That is more than six times the number estimated by Miller. However, according to inspectors, data was so unreliable they could not tell how many of those applicants had sought medical care, or dates for their deaths.