As Backlog Nears 800,000, the VA Sets a Deadline for Waitlisted Vets Without Paperwork

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Over the past four years, the backlog of health care applications at the Department of Veterans Affairs has ballooned as high as 545,000. To help clear the backlog, officials have set a deadline for pending applications, giving vets one year to provide any missing paperwork. If they don’t meet the deadline, they can expect their applications to be shut down.

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When the team tasked with analyzing the status of the pending VA health care applications started, the application backlog was well over 800,000. To help winnow down the queue, the team was able to pull about 288,000 applications for vets who have died. The remaining 545,000 applications are all incomplete in some way. While the VA is required to notify vets if their applications are missing documents, the Veterans Enrollment Rework Project, which is supervising the work, can’t confirm whether those veterans have been notified regarding their application status.

The VA health care enrollment system has other problems as well. In September 2015, the VA inspector general confirmed that 10,000 applications have been lost. In addition, the software has labeled some applications as missing information when in fact they are complete. While the VA has announced its intention to contact the 545,000 veterans with incomplete applications, the department’s contact database is woefully out of date, a fact already known to the VA.

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Once the VA is able to contact veterans, the vets have one year to provide any necessary information. After that, the veteran’s application is closed, but the vet can reapply and start the process from the beginning.

Veterans are supposed to receive five years of health care through the VA after they return from deployment and leave national service, but many are still waiting to get enrolled, even years after entering civilian life. Click here to sign a petition supporting veterans' right to timely health care.

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