Petition to U.S. House of Representatives, U.S. Senate, President of the United States, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, Congressman Jim Langevin, Congressman Sam Graves
The Department of Veterans Affairs: Change Medical Debt Policies; Stop Punishing Veterans with Debt
The way that the Department of Veterans Affairs collects medical debts from veterans is unacceptable. As a disabled veteran trying to pay my medical bills and get treatment, I struggle every day to navigate a backwards system that creates unnecessary stress for veterans, produces significant paper waste, and punishes veterans trying to pay off their debt. Here’s how the current system works: When a veteran like me makes a payment, it is applied to the oldest invoice on record, instead of being applied to the most current invoice. The vast majority of healthcare companies in America do the opposite – they pay off new invoices first and use any remainder to pay down debt. Paying new invoices first allows patients to pay down debt without going into more. But the Department of Veteran’s Affairs’ backward system makes it really hard for vets to ever catch up on payments. When veterans have debt, they must submit a complete 3+ page paper financial statement every 90 days for every facility they go to, otherwise the Department of Veterans Affairs seizes the veteran's total disability payment as well as 20% of any other federal income that the veteran is receiving, like Social Security Disability Insurance payments. Filling out these forms every 90 days puts an unnecessary burden on our veterans, violates the intent of the Paperwork Reduction Act, and means that if a veteran misses getting his/her financial statements in on time just once, the government seizes that person’s income! The VA needs to fix this broken system so that veterans can pay off their medical debt like other Americans and keep the income they need to live. I propose that payments made on a veteran's debt be applied to the newest invoices first, with the excess going to older debt, so that the new debt doesn't age past the 90 day limit every 90 days. This is how most healthcare companies in America address debt. Also, a website should be set up so that the veteran can update just the information that has changed since his/her last financial statement once per year. These changes would improve financial freedom, reduce stress for veterans who have served their country, comply with the Paperwork Reduction Act, reduce waste, and save filing space in the Department of Veterans Affairs offices. Join me in asking the Department of Veteran’s affairs to change their medical debt collection policies. "Any nation that does not honor its heros will not long endure" - Abraham Lincoln "A man who is good enough to shed his blood for his country is good enough to be given a square deal afterwards." - Theodore Roosevelt
Petition to President of the United States, U.S. House of Representatives, U.S. Senate, Department of Justice, Department of Veterans Affairs, United States Department of Health and Human Services
Make eBenefits A Veteran Centered Digital Watchdog
What is eBenefits? You can read more at www.ebenefits.va.gov Basically, it's an internet portal for veterans and service members. The slogan for eBenefits is "my Gateway to Benefit Information" Compared to other internet portals found on the internet (such as financial institutions, shopping with big businesses, etc) the government's version is still far behind in ease of use. A lot of older veterans and their families have never even heard of eBenefits. Being able to use an internet portal to request things from the VA is cheaper and more efficient in the long run. It is also supposed to be safer. There is no figuring out who to call, where to get help, or how to get help if everything we need is accessible to our finger tips; granted we know how to use a computer and have an internet connection. There is also less human error. The eBenefits portal can be used to add another layer of security to veterans' private information. Every time someone accesses the veteran's information within the Veterans Benefit Administration (VBA) computer system, the veteran should be able to see who that person is to ensure that person has authorization. If the VA built in these features into the computer programs there would be no extra manpower needed; it would all be done by the computer. The veteran should be allowed to print the logs of the people who viewed their information and file privacy violation complaints via the portal. Just like VA bureaucrats can see the information of a veteran with a few strokes of a key board, so too should the veteran be able to see who has seen their information with a few strokes of a key board. Something needs to be done to protect veterans' private information and strengthen digital security at the VA because as it stands right now, veterans have very little privacy protection from people who have access to the computer system. Consider this: 1) The prevalence of privacy violations at the VA has become an epidemic system wide; and 2) Even though the VA is one of the top Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) privacy offenders, the Office of Civil Rights, an arm of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), that enforces HIPAA, has largely ignored the VA’s problem; and 3) the process of reporting privacy violations is a very long, complicated and confusing process for many Veterans, often resulting in more negative consequences than providing the protection and relief the Veteran seeks; and 4) Younger Veterans are more apt to be electronic savvy, as well as, prefer to conduct business electronically; and 5) Creating an electronic system that can monitor and generate unredacted audit reports for Veterans via the on-line eBenefits portal would reduce costs associated handling and mailing audit requests in paper form or on electronic storage devices (i.e., CD/DVD/USB); and 6) The VA can modernize its on-line platform (eBenefits) to provide “live coverage” of a Veteran’s information that shows who has and is accessing the Veteran’s private information by showing the names of the people viewing their information, the time they accessed it, the location from where they accessed it, and the purpose for viewing the information; Veterans need your help with supporting legislation and changing applicable regulations that requires the VA to utilize the on-line eBenefits portal for audit requests and filing privacy violations.
Petition to President of the United States, U.S. House of Representatives, U.S. Senate, Department of Veterans Affairs, Department of Justice, United States Department of Health and Human Services
Make the Reporting of Privacy Violations Super Easy at the VA
Answer #1: Many But really it depends on the complexity of the light bulb. For some veterans it can look more like answer #2 and that's no joke. Answer #2: 25 phone operators, 20 admin staff, 2 social workers, 3 supervisors, 2 program directors, 1 upper level manager, 1 director, 1 VSO, 1 U.S. Congressional Representative, 1 U.S. Senator, Office of Inspector General, media and a patient experience specialist. Why should so many people be involved with helping a veteran at the VA on any single issue? Let alone the reporting of violations of privacy laws that have deleterious effects on Veterans? Like most things at the VA, it takes a lot of willpower to get past the VA's firewall and into the matrix to find someone who can get you the help you need. This is one of the reasons the VA budget is so big because it needs to pay for the inefficient beast of bureaucracy that it has become. Veterans know this intimately. Well, any veteran who truly interfaces with the VA's underbelly. Relatively healthy veterans with the least complicated cases tend to have minimal contact with the VA and are more likely to report a good experience. Many others are too afraid to criticize the VA for fear of a backlash or retaliation. Unlike the public, a veteran cannot simply switch doctors (or regional offices); there is an approval process that includes confronting the doctor who you no longer want to see. And even then the veteran will still see that doctor in the hallways of the facility where he/she gets care. Because of the VA's monstrous size, the right hand often does not know what the left hand is doing. In any given day, on any given need or question, a veteran could be told dozen different ways on how to do the same thing. Additionally, anyone who has gone in circles in the VA's round robin system knows exactly where it ends up. Staff often pass the veteran off to someone else who "may know" until the veteran gives up. For veterans who get so mad and frustrated they are just flung like a hot potato from one VA staff to the next and will most likely end up before the behavioral board where all the blame of the VA's incompetency is placed on the veteran who simply could not cope and his/her behavior was no longer tolerated. How dare you mistreat VA staff who are doing the best job they can in a system that doesn't allow them to do the best job they could. Welcome to the VA loony bin. VA bureaucrats know they can also get away with a lot in a system that is so fraught with problems. Take for instance the mass violations of the rule of law at the VA where bureaucrats can violate a veterans privacy and get away with it. The whole system for reporting privacy violations is a sham. It is designed to PREVENT people from reporting privacy violations. I know this is a hard concept for some, since VA provides privacy training and instructions on how to report privacy violations, but most of those reports never go further than the privacy officer. The privacy officers will make an example out of those who faxed to the wrong number etc., but if the privacy violations have to do with a larger system failure or a specific individual who someone wants to protect, then those rules do not apply. The problem is that when laws and rules only apply to "some" people, well then, we have ourselves what is referred to as "soft tyranny". And when a bureaucrat gets a little taste of power, well then, a lot of veterans are screwed along with the people who truly want to help veterans. Laws & regulations are not any good if they are not enforced (please sign our other petition on this that demands that our government enforce the law on all bureaucrats). Reporting privacy violations should not be a difficult nor dangerous process. No one should jeopardize there job for doing the right thing. No veteran should be harassed for wanting their privacy and for restricting those from seeing their private information. 1) The prevalence of privacy violations at the VA has become an epidemic system wide; and 2) Even though the VA is one of the top Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) privacy offenders, the Office of Civil Rights, an arm of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), that enforces HIPAA, has largely ignored the VA’s problem; and 3) The process of reporting privacy violations is a very long, complicated and confusing process for many Veterans, often resulting in more negative consequences than providing the protection and relief the Veteran seeks; and 4) The Veteran must report privacy violations to the same Regional Office suspected of the privacy violation, which is a conflict of interest; and 5) It is an extremely poor plan and accountability practice to have any individual and/or group of people, police itself; and 6) The current regional office Privacy Officer position is an ineffective because it is a peripheral duty assigned to a person who has a primary job description that makes them co-workers, subordinates and/or supervisors to the people who must report privacy violations to; and 7) VA employees are more likely to report privacy violations if someone was hired specifically to be the Privacy Officer with its own job description, duties and responsibilities, as well as, supervised under a completely different and separate chain of command from the regional office where they work. Veterans need your help with supporting legislation and changing applicable regulations that requires the VA to make the reporting of privacy violations easy and efficient to unbiased Privacy Officers, who do not have a conflict of interest.
Petition to Rick Larsen, Congress
Remove the unions from the VA and protect our Vets.
The VA is rife with inequities and out right fraud and abuse of many kinds. These unfortunate facts are compounded by unions being present within the VA and making it virtually impossible to fire someone who is a poor worker; or even worse, an outright danger. Our Veterans and loved ones have already suffered enough without being forced to endure the neglect and mistreatment by uncaring individuals whose main concern is doing as little as possible and getting as much as possible is return. The VA is no place for the union to be.