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The U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC) has alerted the President and Congress that a U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) facility in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, improperly denied eligible patients access to in-home social work programs by enacting a blanket policy to deny all electronic waitlist (EWL) requests for such services. The VA investigation substantiated the allegations made by a social worker within the Tennessee Valley Healthcare System finding that this policy denied patients care regardless of clinical recommendations or their medical needs.
As a result of the investigation, social workers followed up and contacted all 73 patients on the waitlist and discovered that eight of them had since passed away. The agency committed in the future to notifying all patients of their clinical appeal rights if the VA determines they do not meet eligibility criteria for in-home services. Further, the agency implemented several corrective measures, including instructing the facility to ensure that all involved staff members are educated and trained in the EWL services.
“It is disappointing that eight veterans passed away while on a waitlist for in-home care. While the lack of access to these services may not have been the reason for their deaths, having such services could have improved their quality of life," said Special Counsel Henry J. Kerner. “That said, I am satisfied that the agency is now making the necessary efforts to ensure that patients who qualify for in-home services receive the care that they deserve."