Op-Ed: Will The New Secretary Investigate A V.A. Cover-Up Affecting A Disabled Veteran?
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At the conclusion of my initial appointment at the Matsunaga Medical Center (Clinic) in mid-2007, I discovered that patients residing on Oahu had been unlawfully denied travel reimbursement since 1978.
In 2008, I, a permanently disabled Veteran, officially accused the Department of Veterans Affairs of covering-up the mismanagement of the V.A.’s Beneficiary Travel Reimbursement Program which occurred at the Matsunaga V.A. Clinic in Honolulu, Hawaii.
As the subject of “Mismanagement of a VA Program” was one of the issues the Veterans Affairs Office of the Inspector General (VAOIG) listed as a matter which should be reported to them, I reported it to the Clinic and to the Pacific Islands Health Care System (PIHCS). Lacking an acknowledgement of the report, or any response, I forwarded an official report directly to the VAOIG. The office of the VAOIG advised that they would not investigate the matter, but would return the report to the PIHCS for response. A response from PIHCS or any other V.A. Command has never been received.
The Matsunaga Clinic denied travel reimbursements to eligible V.A. patients residing on the island of Oahu. The Clinic’s position was that no V.A. patients lived far enough from the Clinic to be eligible for reimbursement of travel expenses. From 1978 until January 2009, the V.A. reimbursement rate was a mere eleven (.11) cents per mile. Using that rate, less the $6.00 roundtrip deductible, a patient had to live at least 27.27 miles from the Clinic. To explain: .11 cents per mile times the roundtrip mileage of 54.54 miles equals $5.999, less the $6.00 deductible, leaving ZERO travel reimbursement for the patient. The Clinic erroneously decided that no one on Oahu lived far enough from the Clinic to be eligible for travel reimbursement.
There were, indeed, V.A. patients residing on Oahu that lived farther than 27.27 miles. Additionally, if any eligible patient made a fourth trip in the same month, the deductible did not apply and the patient would be owed the full .11 cents per mile for the total miles traveled.
From 1978 until 2009, many deserving Veterans residing on Oahu were cheated or bilked out of travel reimbursements due to them.
When it became apparent to the V.A. that I did not intend to “stand down” on my inquiry regarding this case of mismanagement, it seemed obvious that a “gag order” was issued to all VA commands, ordering them not to discuss the matter with anyone. Phone calls, emails, voice mails, and personal letters were all ignored.
Hawaii Senator Hirono and Congresswoman Gabbard were informed of the obvious cover-up. Senator Hirono made a couple inquiries to the V.A., but to my knowledge the V.A. has never responded. I am uncertain if Congresswoman Gabbard made any inquiries regarding this incident.
I possess a rather large file on this issue, should the new V.A. Secretary be interested in the factual background.
Perhaps the new Secretary’s Staff would make certain that he is personally aware of this disgraceful cover-up! The decision to deny travel reimbursements to VA patients was unfortunate, however, the “cover-up” should not have been ordered and the travel reimbursements are owed to VA patients! The VA should make good on its duty to reimburse the affected patients accordingly!
Brooks Outland is a Korean and Vietnam war veteran.He volunteered to serve in Vietnam because he was keen to help the people of South Vietnam keep their freedom and their country from communist takeover by the North. After retiring Brooks and his wife spent eight years volunteering aboard his old battleship, USS Missouri (BB-63), before returning to the mainland in Arkansas in 2015.