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McKinley meets with veterans groups to discuss healthcare

U.S. Rep. David McKinley, R-W.Va., met Tuesday in Parkersburg with local veterans and representatives to discuss challenges in getting their healthcare claims processed. (Photo by Brett Dunlap)

PARKERSBURG — A congressman from West Virginia wants a bill he can vote on that will help veterans get the healthcare for which they are entitled.

Rep. David McKinley, R-W.Va., was in Parkersburg Tuesday talking with veterans and representatives from veteran organizations at the Veterans of Foreign Wars on Garfield Ave.

”These are some of the most important people in the country,” McKinley said. ”These are the people who guard the wall for us.

”The VA has a very convoluted system about processing claims.”

Many of those in attendance talked about the continuing challenges of going through the processes to get healthcare claims handled through the Veterans Administration.

U.S. Rep. David McKinley, R-W.Va., met Tuesday in Parkersburg with local veterans and representatives to discuss challenges in getting their healthcare claims processed. (Photo by Brett Dunlap)

Attendees included veterans who have and are continuing to go through the process as well as helping others through it and others who have worked with the VA and had some understanding of the procedures they go through in evaluating claims.

”Overall, we want a review of the process for processing claims,” said Corrina Boggess, Senior vice commander for the West Virginia VFW and a retired U.S. Army colonel with 28 years experience. ”I think it will really open the door for a lot of veterans.”

Participants talked about finding something through their regular doctor and then determining it is related to their military service. They talked about trying to file a claim with the VA and having to go through a lengthy process where it is initially denied and they have to do additional doctor appointments, paperwork and more before it is covered. Many talked about being exposed to burn pits during deployments in the Middle East.

In some cases it can be several years before a claim is finally approved to be covered which has already resulted in a lot of out-of-pocket expense for the veteran, many of whom in West Virginia do not always have good insurance coverage.

”That is not right,” McKinley said. ”That is not fair.

”We are looking for ideas about how we can develop a plan. I want results.”

Boggess talked about veterans who have had to wait around 10 years for claims to finally be approved after going through a lot of the bureaucracy that is in place.

”They have to pay a lot of co-pays on their treatments and medications until they get that claim adjudicated,” Boggess said. ”That process can take years and years and years and you get no reimbursement and you are paying out-of-pocket for a condition that you contracted while in the service.”

One of the participants who had experience with how the VA operates said personnel at the initial level are expected to process claims in 45 minutes with some files well over 1,000 pages. They can’t do it in that time so they are initially denied as a result requiring more work to process them. That person said more new hires need a lot more training to do the work adequately.

Some wanted to see a dynamic where veterans’ claims are processed like social security disability claims which are done in 3-4 months as opposed to several years. Those involved in the VA were concerned that opening the process too much could result in a lot of fraudulent claims.

”That is the kind of stuff we have to have a dialogue about,” the Congressman said.

McKinley voiced support for setting up a pilot program in five states to see if such a model would be better.

”(Waiting years for a claim to be approved) is not right for people who have served this country and put their life in danger,” he said..

He wants to have another meeting soon in Huntington with the officials from the VA and other interested parties to come up with viable solutions.

”I want to get to a bill I can vote on,” McKinley said.

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