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'VA pharmacy' callers part of telephone scam bill smith Views on Veterans

18-Feb-2007: THE VETERANS ADMINISTRATION recently issued a warning about a scam aimed at veterans of the military. The warning says to be on the alert for telephone calls from anyone claiming to be from the "VA pharmacy."

The caller then requests personal information from the veteran including a list of medications he or she is receiving. According to the VA these telephone calls are a shameless scam.

"Disabled veterans may be the targets of those phony phone calls because they are frequent users of the VA health care system," says David W. Gorman, executive director, Washington Headquarters of the Disabled American Veterans.

According to the VA, these bogus callers have claimed that they need personal information such as Social Security numbers and medications that were prescribed because of "new co-pay regulations." Officials report some even tell veterans they owe $800 because of a change in co-pays at the VA and then asked for credit card information to pay this medical bill.

Be on the alert, veterans, because the VA stresses that there has been no such changes in regulations and that it does not contact patients by telephone seeking prescription renewals or personal information. VA officials urge veterans to be extremely careful about providing any personal information by way of telephone to unknown people.

VA care outshines private hospitals

In the November issue of the VFW magazine came an article that said, "From an outdated system a little more than a decade ago, VA's 154 hospitals and 875 clinics now annually outperform those in the private sector.

"For the sixth consecutive year, the University of Michigan's Customer Satisfaction Index rated VA hospitals higher than private facilities. Using patient surveys it scored VA care at 83 out of a 100. Private care scored 71."

Consider these facts: "The VA's patient load has grown from 2.5 million in 1995 to 5.3 million in 2005, with 10,000 fewer employees than 10 years ago. The VA's innovative barcode system has improved its prescription accuracy rate to better than 99.9 percent, compared to 92 percent to 97 percent in the private sector. The VA's average patient cost is $5,000, about the same as 10 years ago, while Medicare's average patient cost of $6,500 is about 40 percent higher than it was 10 years ago. Men age 65 and older have a 40 percent lower risk of death in the VA's system than those in Medicare Advantage. Some 96 percent of all VA prescriptions and tests are ordered electronically compared to 8 percent in private facilities, where about 20 percent of medical tests are repeated on patients because the original results were lost. The VA has cut hospital visits by 4,000 patients a year since increasing its pneumonia vaccination rate from 29 percent in 1995 to 94 percent in 2005.

"The VA has established four poly-trauma centers, which primarily cares for soldiers severely wounded in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, with plans for 22 more."

In the last two fiscal years, the VA has budgeted $300 million for veterans' mental-health services, but more than $50 million has not been used for that purpose. This was reported by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) on Sept. 28. In 2005 the VA spent only $53 million of the $100 million budgeted.

The VA redirected $35 million into a general fund, with $12 million unspent. In 2006, $42 million of the budgeted $200 million was not spent.

Source: Wilkes Barre Times-Leader

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