DiNapoli Finds Veterans Are Not Informed of Health Benefits Options

Many veterans are being placed in the state’s Medicaid program rather than federal programs due to the poor coordination of health benefits by the state Department of Health and local social services departments. Auditors found many examples where necessary referrals were not made for federal benefits, which limits veterans’ health options, costing the state and local taxpayers millions of dollars.

“Our nation’s heroes should be told that they have options when it comes to where they receive the health benefits they need and deserve. They should not be at the mercy of administrative problems, nor should taxpayers,” DiNapoli said. “New York needs to do a better job coordinating how veterans are receiving their health benefits. Those who served in our Armed Forces should know all of their possible benefits.”

The Medicaid eligibility process allows local departments of social services to identify and refer veterans to the state Division of Veterans’ Affairs or local veterans’ service agencies so they can file for federal benefits. There referrals are vital for enhancing the coordination of veterans’ Medicaid and U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs benefits, as well as helping ensure veterans access federal benefits.

“In 2002, DOH determined that 15,390 veterans received Medicaid services totaling more than $191 million in 2001. At that time, DOH sent a letter to all local departments of social services commissioners informing them that these expenditures could be reduced if veterans accessed care through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). The letter told local district commissioners to consider establishing local procedures for educating veterans about their eligibility for health care benefits through the VA and instructed them to assist veterans in obtaining those services. Since then, DOH has done little to ensure that local districts comply with state laws and DOH’s Medicaid policies regarding the coordination of veterans’ health care benefits.”

DiNapoli’s auditors found 679 Medicaid recipients who appeared to be veterans’ dependents and were potentially eligible for VA medical benefits during the five-year audit period. Medicaid paid health care providers nearly $50 million for these recipients.

DiNapoli recommended DOH:
•    Reinforce policies and procedures regarding local districts’ responsibilities, including identifying veterans, advising veterans of federal health care benefits, referring veterans and keeping records of referrals to the state DVA/local VSA, and ensuring veterans file for federal benefits;

•    Identify local district best practices and share among all counties; and

•    Actively monitor the performance of local districts to ensure they comply with the Law and the Department’s policies and procedures regarding the coordination of veterans’ health care benefits.

For more information, visit: http://www.osc.state.ny.us/audits/allaudits/093014/12s162.pdf