A whistleblower has accused the Department of Veterans Affairs of intentionally violating its own policy toward combat veterans to keep thousands of applicants from receiving their healthcare benefits.
Scott Davis, a program specialist at the VA enrollment center in Atlanta, said some veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan lost their eligibility for healthcare after the VA sat on their applications until they expired.
"This is not an accident, not when you get to those numbers," Davis told the Washington Examiner. "The VA, again, intentionally has artificial barriers to reduce the number of people who can use the system."
Combat veterans are not required to verify their income when applying for VA benefits. They are given five years from the time of their discharge from service to enroll in the system.
But the enrollment applications of 34,000 such veterans were delayed when the VA system designated them as pending because they lacked income information, Davis alleged.
In a letter to Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., Davis said 18,000 veterans returning from service in Iraq and Afghanistan were waiting to learn the fate of their pending applications.
He noted another 16,000 combat veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan had lost their eligibility for healthcare because the VA had ignored their applications for more than five years.
Rep. Mike Coffman, R-Colo., pressed VA Secretary Robert McDonald on the massive backlog of applications in a July 10 letter.
"[I]t is my understanding that a number of veterans have had their healthcare expire due to inaction by VA," wrote Coffman, who heads the VA committee's Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigation.
Documents provided by Davis indicate the VA may have discouraged veterans from submitting necessary paperwork when applying for benefits so the agency could shift the blame for its growing backlog onto the veterans and their incomplete applications.
The House Veterans Affairs Committee has vowed to investigate an internal VA report that indicated one in three veterans who applied for healthcare benefits had died before the agency got around to their applications.
The negative attention that has been trained on the VA in the year since news of its falsified patient waiting lists emerged has seemingly done little to curb the agency's problems.
The White House sent a delegation from the Office of Management and Budget to the Atlanta center in April amid allegations of mismanagement by VA employees there.
Davis said none of the OMB representatives attempted to meet with him during their visit despite the fact that his whistleblower status is widely known.
OMB did not return a request for comment.
"It's been nothing but a cloud of plausible deniability and turning a blind eye since the onslaught of this situation," Davis said.
VA officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment.