I-Team: Veterans upset about travel reimbursement delays at Durham VA
DURHAM, NC (WTVD) —
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs said the transition to a new processing system is leading to a backlog of travel reimbursements, but any delays should be resolved soon.
According to some Triangle veterans, those delays have lasted up to 30 days instead of the normal two-to-three business day turnaround.
“It takes me a half-tank of gas or even two-thirds to make the travel,” Ricky Jackson, 79, a former army engineer, told ABC11. “It might cost more than $15 to travel, and if you take that $15 from your light bill, then your lights get cut off. Then that causes you all kinds of problems.”
The Durham VA Health Care System is made up of 10 locations, including one hospital and nine clinics. Last year, the VA processed more than 327,000 individual claims for travel reimbursement, which paid out an estimated $10.8 million.
Peter Tillman, Chief of Health Administration, said an administrative office at each clinic and hospital individually had been processing these claims, but an internal audit found room for improvement.
“The changes that we’ve had around here is about stewardship,” Tillman told ABC11. “The American people and our veterans don’t want to be underpaid. We don’t want to overpay. We want to pay the appropriate amount. We’re entrusted with government funds, we put our budget forth, and we have an obligation to make sure we’re carrying out our financial responsibility. “
During the past few weeks, Tillman says the Durham VA has centralized that process and set up digital kiosks for veterans to submit their claims at the various locations, but that’s come with some growing pains. The transition, along with training staff in the new protocols and procedures, could be delaying those reimbursements by up to 30 days.
“I feel like we’re in a really good place right now,” Tillman said. “We’ve learned a lot, we’ve learned to get efficient at this process.”
Veterans with questions about their benefit may call (919) 286-0411, Ext. 6237
If a veteran would like to dispute his or her payment, they can do so by completing the Durham VA Health Care System Beneficiary Travel Dispute Form. The form can be submitted via email online, to the VA clinic or department where care was provided, or to the Patient Advocate Office located on the first floor of the main medical center.
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