By Jennifer M. Gau, Public Affairs, Department of Social and Health Services
OLYMPIA, WA – On Veterans Day 2010, a Medicaid Purchasing Administration program aimed at connecting the state’s veterans with federal benefits has become a model for other states interested in helping veterans obtain the benefits they have earned with military service.
The five-year-old Veterans Benefit Enhancement Project was featured this year in several national newsletters, and more than 20 states have contacted Washington in the months since, asking how they could tap into the same system. The Veterans Project is part of the Medicaid Payment Review Program and the Office of Program Integrity.
Project Manager Bill Allman, who started the project as a pilot in 2003 in Clark County, said he began by trying to benefit veterans who were Medicaid clients but did not realize they might qualify for richer federal benefits. It picked up support from the start from the State Department of Veterans Affairs. A partnership was established that has led to a recent agency-wide partnership between the Department of Social and Health Services and the Washington Department of Veteran Affairs.
“Our project tries to locate veterans and their families in Washington state who may be eligible for additional federal benefits based on their military service,” Allman said. “We can be especially helpful for veterans struggling with the costs of long-term care. In some cases, this may also save the state money – but the best part is that it can beef up the benefits available to the vet.”
A significant advantage to the federal benefits is that, unlike Medicaid, the federal veteran programs are not required to seize a family’s assets to help pay for the cost of care after a veteran dies. Medicaid under law must try to recover its costs from clients’ estates, which may require selling a family home. VA programs have no strings attached, since they were earned by a veteran’s military service.
“Veterans earned their federal benefit with their military service,” said Allman, a Vietnam veteran himself. “They do not have to pay anyone back for the services we give them in return.”
The key to the project is a state-federal databank called PARIS, a powerful information exchange between the states and the federal government that helps locate veterans who otherwise might be lost to the system.
Public Assistance Reporting Information System (PARIS) is a computer data matching and information exchange system administered by the Administration of Children and Families (ACF) to provide states with a tool to improve program integrity in the administration of public and medical assistance programs. PARIS data includes information from the Veteran’s Administration, Department of Defense, as well as participating states.
Washington state was one of the first 15 states that participated in the PARIS data match voluntarily. Since Oct. 1, 2010, PARIS participation, per federal legislation, is now mandatory for all states. Allman said he is excited to see that the data matches that Washington has found so useful have picked up national interest and are now being utilized by other states
“This has always been about serving the veterans, so it is great to know that other states are looking into this program and intend to start it up,” he said.
He said states that have contacted him so far include Montana, California, Colorado, Idaho, Vermont, Ohio, Oregon, Texas, New Hampshire, Kansas, New York, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Georgia, Iowa, Wisconsin, New Jersey, Virginia, Connecticut, North Carolina, Alaska and Arkansas.
Families and neighbors who think they know of veterans who can benefit from the state’s program are encouraged to call or e-mail Allman at 360-725-1020 or email@example.com.
Heidi Audette, Department of Veterans Affairs, 360-725-2154