VA staff being trained to file medical claims quicker

HARLINGEN — Half of the Veterans Administration’s medical claims were being denied, making veterans wait long periods for medical appointments, officials said today.

During the last 90 days, the VA has worked with hospitals and other health care providers to cut claims’ denial rate from 50 percent to 10 percent.

“Doctors didn’t want to take them because it was taking too long to pay the VA,” Dr. Richard Stone, the VA’s principal deputy under secretary for health, said t a press conference Monday at the Regional Academic Health Center in Harlingen.

Now, officials are training staff at the VA and hospitals to properly file medical claims to further cut the denial rate.

Stone said the work in the Rio Grande Valley serves as a “model” for the VA across the United States.

“What you set in motion today is something I hope we can duplicate across the nation,” Stone said.

In the Valley, Valley Baptist Medical Center and Doctors Hospital at Renaissance in Edinburg are working with the VA to provide care for veterans.

Now, more claims are being properly filed, said Connie Humphries, senior vice president and special counsel at Doctors Hospital at Renaissance.

“We’re seen significant deductions in the time it takes claims to be processed,” Humphries said from the small audience.

U.S. Rep. Ruben Hinojosa, D-McAllen, said he’s working with the region’s lawmakers to help the VA and hospitals properly file medical claims amid “a transformation in medical care.”

Hinojosa said the improvements will lead fewer Valley veterans to travel to Audie Murphy Memorial VA Hospital in San Antonio for medical care.

“We’ve made tremendous progress,” Hinojosa said. “Big changes have been made as a result of this coalition we put together to improve the time they will be seen by doctors.”

Officials launched the project after hearing veterans’ concerns three months ago in McAllen.

“There was a lot of anger,” Stone said, referring to veterans. “It was taking too long to get appointments.”

For more on this story read Tuesday’s Valley Morning Star.