Veterans who are in need of medical benefits often turn to state Medicaid programs first for help, not realizing that they may qualify for more generous benefits from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Several years ago, state Medicaid employees launched a partnership with the Washington State Department of Veterans Affairs to coordinate referrals of Medicaid veterans to federal programs, making sure veterans and their families were linked to available federal benefits.
Washington State Veterans Benefit Enhancement Program (VBEP)
An innovative program in Washington State is showing how states can improve their veterans' access to federal health benefits and also achieve millions in cost savings for their state budgets. The White House supports VBEP and urges all states to examine its effectiveness and consider adopting similar programs.
In 2002, the Washington State Health Care Authority (HCA) launched VBEP in partnership with the state Department of Veterans Affairs, to assist the increasing number of veterans that qualified for and were unaware of their eligibility for federal service-related benefits. The program was led by Bill Allman and Tim Dahlin at the Washington Health Care Authority (HCA).
Public Assistance Reporting Information System (PARIS)
Using a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services national database, called "PARIS", these state agencies began identifying veterans who were enrolled in Washington's Medicaid program and were also found to be eligible for health coverage, long-term care benefits or pensions through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) or Department of Defense. These individuals were then transferred over to the federal programs, which in many instances provided richer and more comprehensive benefits. In many cases, the increased monthly benefit at lease reduced the amount a veteran's family was responsible for repaying for any Medicaid long term care-related services. Since 2003, the VBEP has helped qualify over 15,600 Washington veterans and their families for federal benefits, and in doing so has also saved over $68 million from the state's Medicaid budget.
The program doesn't reduce medical costs overall, but by shifting spending from the states to the federal government, it both eases state budget pressures and ensures that veterans, who have earned the right to access the full range of VA benefits, are informed of their eligibility so they can exercise that right. Currently, only 23 percent of veterans eligible for benefits are actually receiving them. The program also ensures that no veteran falls through the cracks in benefit coverage; until a VBEP client qualifies for a VA monthly cash benefit that makes them financially ineligible for state public assistance, they maintain existing state benefits.