In an audit this week, state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli found that taxpayers are losing millions of dollars because many veterans are being placed in the state’s Medicaid program, which provides health care for the poor and disabled, rather than federal program. Auditors found dozens of examples in which the necessary referrals were not made. Besides costing New York more money, this practice has limited veterans’ health options, the comptroller said.
As part of the state’s Medicaid eligibility process, local departments of social services identify and refer veterans to the state Division of Veterans’ Affairs or local veterans service agencies so they can seek federal benefits. It’s up to veterans whether to use a VA or Medicaid benefit, but many are not aware they are eligible for federal veterans’ benefits. DiNapoli said. Medicaid is funded by the state and federal governments and counties in New York.
“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 in a statement. “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 state Department of Health determined in 2002 that 15,390 veterans received Medicaid services totaling more than $191 million the previous year. The agency sent letters to all local department of social services commissioners informing them the expenditures could be reduced if veterans got care through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Since then, the Health Department has done little to make sure local districts comply with state laws and the agency’s Medicaid policies regarding coordination of benefits for veterans, auditors found.
For the five-year period ending March 31, 2013, New York’s Medicaid program reimbursed health-care providers $3.47 billion for medical services provided to more than 70,000 veterans. In counties with high Medicaid expenses for veterans, social service departments did not make referrals for federal benefits in 81 or 91 cases tested. Auditors also found 679 Medicaid recipients who appeared to be veterans’ dependents and were potentially eligible for VA medical benefits. Medicaid paid health care providers nearly $50 million for the recipients.
DiNapoli recommended the state actively monitor local social service districts to make sure they are complying with the law and the state’s policies and procedures on coordination of veterans’ health care benefits. About 913,000 veterans live in New York, according to the VA.
Health Department officials agreed with several of DiNapoli’s recommendations and would take steps to address them, but they do not intend to implement several other recommendations.
(Journal News file photo of visitors to the Westchester County Veterans Museum at Lasdon Park in Katonah looking at an American bald eagle sculpture installed last year.)