CHARLESTON — The Department of Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General is calling for tighter controls on the support program for family members and others who care for vets treated at the Ralph Johnson Medical Center in Charleston.
“We substantiated the allegations that caregivers received hundreds of thousands of dollars of stipend dollars without confirmation that the patients and caregivers met program requirements,” Dr. John Daigh Jr., the agency’s assistant inspector general for health care inspection, concluded in a report released Thursday.
“We found that caregivers were paid even though the facility had not documented required annual reassessments,” he added.
The program provides medical, training, travel and financial benefits to caregivers for veterans and active duty service members.
Under the law, applications for the program are to be processed within 45 days and Veterans Affairs personnel are to conduct in-home assessments following the initial caregiver training and then every 90 days. Every year the primary caregivers’ competence to continue providing for the vet is also to be reviewed.
It said between July of 2011 and last January payments of almost $1.2 million were made to the caregivers in the program.
The report reviewed the cases of 60 patients and their caregivers between Aug. 8, 2011 and Sept. 20, 2013.
The report found, among other things, that half the applications were not processed within 45 days, 57 percent of the initial in-home assessments had not been completed and 75 percent of the households were not monitored following the initial assessment.
The report makes five recommendations, including that applications be handled in a timely manner. It also said those currently in the program must be monitored and assessed as required and that reassessments of caregivers are conducted as required.
The report also directed Scott Isaacks, the director of the Charleston facility, to make sure the committee that decides program eligibility meets regularly and that the center has adequate staffing for in-home assessments.
Isaacks, in a response included in the report, said he concurs with the recommendations.
He said that the program eligibility committee is already meeting regularly. He said the center has set a target date of Dec. 1 to make sure all the other recommendations are implemented.
The medical center serves more than 56,000 veterans in 21 counties in coastal South Carolina and Georgia. It handles about 560,000 outpatient visits and 4,300 in-patient stays each year.