Voicemail prompts concerns over delays in VA medical claims

KSN's Darren Dedo

WICHITA, Kansas – KSN recently got a tip from a viewer, saying the Veterans Administration was so overloaded dealing with medical claims that providers are dealing with serious wait times.

It’s what was said in a voicemail that prompted those calls to KSN and got us asking questions.

A call to a local number connected with the department of veterans affairs ends with a voicemail that says:

“Due to the high volume of claims currently needing to be paid and the fact that we continue to be short staffed, our time is at a premium as we are engaged in processing and  paying a this large volume of claims, consequently spending time on the phone prevents us from continuing this task…. I’m asking for your patience and very kindly request that phone calls or requesting individual claim status, claim amounts and confirmation of a claim’s presence in our system be withheld for 60 days while our department works on this very long backlog.”

KSN's Darren Dedo
KSN’s Darren Dedo

So we went to the local V.A and started asking questions. We learned this message is not coming from the Dole V.A. Medical Center here in Wichita.

We’re told this number is meant for providers – medical specialists or businesses that provide service for local veterans so they can check on payments from V.A. Those providers call the number where they can check on getting their payments from the V.A.

“The particular voice mail that comes in to question actually has nothing to do with veterans services,” said John Orrell, Public Affairs Officer, Robert J. Dole VA Medical Center.

Orrell says that if veterans go outside of the V.A. for medical care, those providers then have to contact the V.A. for payment for those services. It was at the centralized business office, that is located in Wichita, but is not directly tied to the Dole Medical Center, where the voicemail was recorded.

In an effort to improve veteran care in light of recent concerns, the administration now allows veterans who could be waiting more than 30 days for a medical appointment within the V.A. to go outside of the administration for health care. The providers that provide services for those vets, either at the veteran’s choice, or because the V.A. doesn’t have the specialty care available from that provider, would then call the centralized business office to be reimbursed for their services.

The Dole Medical Center says patients should not have gotten the message, but if they did, veterans always have the ability to come to the Dole center or ask questions about care.

“I want all of our veterans and families to know they always have the ability to come to this facility, they always have the ability to contact this facility,” said Orrell.

After KSN started asking questions, the phone message was changed.

It now asks for basic information, like name and number, and leaves other phone numbers to contact for claims.

But we still wanted to know if the delay indicated in the voicemail has affected the care veterans receive.

“We have not had any issues with patient care, due to any backlog for paying back providers for their claims,” said Orrell.

We did reach out several times to national V.A. representatives who are in charge of the operations center where we heard the message.  They did not respond to our requests for information in time for broadcast.

 

Transcription of audio recording:

  • “Hi you have reached the voicemail of xx xxx . Due to the high volume of claims currently needing to be paid and the fact that we continue to be short staffed, our time is at a premium as we are engaged in processing and  paying a this large volume of claims, consequently spending time on the phone prevents us from continuing this task.
  • “I’m asking for your patience and very kindly request that phone calls or requesting individual claim status, payment amounts and confirmation of a claim’s presence in our system be withheld for 60 days while our department works on this very long backlog.
  • “Please allow us the opportunity to remedy the current situation and process this backlog of claims. Our hope is that by mid-May we will have worked through these clams and you will have received payment.
  • “Individual claims requiring coding corrections that will still require clerk input can leave a message and I will return your call. If you are a veteran needing help, please leave a message with your name, last four, and the type of claim you’re inquiring about and the date of service. Thank you, have a good day.”

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