It is commonly accepted that many poor veterans and their families find themselves on Medicaid, even though, in many cases, they would qualify for more generous benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs.
The VA’s Aid and Attendance program, for instance, helps wartime veterans receive the care they need to stay in their homes or assist with long-term care expenses. But many who are entitled to this benefit end up on Medicaid — which has significant implications for the veteran’s family members.
In 2003, the state of Washington began a pilot program to identify veterans who were falling through the cracks. In the years since, the program has served thousands of people who qualified for this assistance. At the same time, it has helped relieve some of the fiscal pressure placed on the state’s Medicaid program by shifting these costs to the federal VA. Viewed as a win-win, the program has become a model for other states.
KHN asked two state officials invovled in the program’s operations to explain the basics of the Veterans Benefit Enhancement Project — how it came to be and why it is making a difference for both the state’s veterans and its budget. Commentaries follow from Bill Allman, who developed and now manages the Washington State Health Care Authority’s program, and from Alex Deluao of the Washington State Department of Veterans Affairs.
Bill Allman writes: “About 10 years ago, I first heard about a federal databank called PARIS — the Public Assistance Reporting Information System. … Astonishingly, a broader use of such a databank had gone unrealized until I started asking questions, particularly about the military and veteran program information available to the states. With my background in medical assistance for the state of Washington, I was well aware of the fact that many poor veterans and their families were winding up on the rolls of Medicaid, never realizing that they might also be eligible for richer federal benefits.” Read the column.
In regard to the Aid and Attendance program and the number of qualifying veterans who somehow are missed, Alex Deluao writes: “It leads to this very serious question: How do we connect veterans who are in need and who are eligible to this benefit? Thanks to the creative thinking of employees at the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services and the Washington State Department of Veterans Affairs, we have found an answer. So far, we have helped connect more than 3,300 veterans or their widows to these programs and their benefits.” Read the column.