- Office of State Auditor Suzanne M. Bump
Media Contact for Bump Provides Solutions to Better Serve Massachusetts Veterans
Mike Wessler, Communications Director
Boston — Auditor Suzanne M. Bump today released an audit of the Department of Veterans’ Services (DVS), in which she provides recommendations to improve outreach to veterans who may qualify for benefits and assistance from the agency. The audit found that inter-governmental silos and a lack of data created barriers that result in veterans not receiving benefits for which they are qualified.
Bump’s audit notes that DVS could improve outreach to veterans through veterans’ services officers (VSOs) by utilizing data collected by other state agencies. For example, currently, DVS uses US Census Bureau data to estimate the statewide population of veterans, however it does not obtain information on veterans in individual communities. The audit notes that the Elections Division of the Office of the Secretary of the Commonwealth collects data on veterans in individual communities, which DVS could provide to VSOs to ensure they are reaching these populations.
Additionally, the audit encourages DVS to explore opportunities to better collaborate with other state agencies that provide public benefits to residents of the Commonwealth to ensure it is reaching veterans. The audit highlights MassHealth as a potential partner for DVS. MassHealth provides its members the opportunity to self-identify as veterans. The audit shows that of the 13,679 MassHealth members who identify as veterans, only 1,460 also receive Chapter 115 veteran benefits. However, analysis by Bump’s office notes that 7,938 of the remaining MassHealth members who identify as veterans may also qualify for veterans benefits administered by DVS, but do not currently receive them.
“Whether they are assisting with a natural disaster within our borders, or protecting freedom around the globe, veterans have served and sacrificed bravely in our name. It is our responsibility to ensure that when they return home, they receive the assistance and care they deserve,” Bump said. “Our audit found that a lack of data sharing, and inter-governmental silos present barriers to efforts to reach veterans who may qualify for services. I encourage the Department of Veterans’ Services to expand collaboration with other state government entities to ensure veterans are aware of the benefits that are available to them.”
According to U.S. Census data from 2015, there are more than 327,900 veterans living in Massachusetts, representing approximately 6.1 percent of the state’s adult population.
The audit is part of a series conducted by Bump’s office identifying barriers to accessing programs that make up the Commonwealth’s social safety net. Earlier this year, as part of this effort, Bump released an audit of the Catastrophic Illness in Children Relief Fund, which found delays in application processing resulted in families waiting on average 289 days to receive financial assistance for costs associated with a child’s illness.
The audit released today also found DVS made improper reimbursements to cities and towns, did not ensure veterans received an explanation of their benefits, and some VSOs did not complete required training and certification examinations.
DVS is an agency within the state’s Executive Office of Health and Human Services. It is tasked with assisting and advising veterans’ service officers regarding benefits and services for which veterans may be eligible. During the audit period—July 1, 2014 through June 30, 2016—DVS had approximately 65 employees.