Veterans complain about new VA medical travel payment system

Claims are only taken electronically now and processing times are much longer
Published: May. 5, 2021 at 6:59 PM EDT
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MID-MICHIGAN (WJRT) - Veterans in Michigan are having a difficult time using a new system that covers the travel costs for receiving medical care.

Over 125 veterans say the new system is not user friendly and it’s taking much longer for them to be reimbursed the money that they are owed. The issue is catching the attention of Michigan congressional leaders, who are urging the Veterans Administration to address the situation.

One Mid-Michigan veteran said he now has to wait months to receive reimbursements. The program itself isn’t new, but the way claims are processed is.

“You put it into your computer, personal computer, which I’m not very good at,” said Robert Hunter. “My wife and I spent an hour and a half on it and we got it all programmed in and everything and at the end of the whole series it said their computer would not accept our computer.”

Hunter is a Vietnam veteran from Saginaw with a number of different medical issues going on. He goes to the doctor often, meaning he gets reimbursed often for those travel expenses.

But the VA’s upgraded system now requires more departmental approvals, meaning payments are being delayed several months. Before that upgrade, payments were received within a month. The new system also works on smartphones or computer vs. handled on paper beforehand.

“They don’t take into consideration the older veterans aren’t that computer savvy, and I know the younger guys don’t seem to have trouble,” Hunter said.

Congressman Dan Kildee and several other congressional leaders from Michigan sent a letter Wednesday to the secretary of Veterans Affairs, urging the VA to make the program more user friendly and quicker processing.

“What Senator Stabenow, Senator Peters, Congressman Moolenaar and I are pushing is the VA to simply let us know what they need to make this work and in the meantime let our veterans use the process they have used in the past,” Kildee said.

As of March, only 12% of claims have been submitted through the new system, suggesting veterans are having a difficult time navigating the claims process. At the Saginaw VA, there’s a backlog of approximately 1,400 claims.

Under the new system, the VA clerks are only able to process about 50 to 80 claims a day. Before without the backlog, they could process over 250 claims per day.

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