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Health care fraud focus of task force

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General and the U.S. Department of Justice recently announced the establishment of the VA Health Care Fraud Task Force to combat fraud in VA’s expanding health care programs.

The Task Force combines the VA inspector general’s substantial experience investigating health care fraud at VA with the Justice Department’s track record prosecuting health care fraud through its Medicare Fraud Strike Force, which resides within the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section, the Justice Department said in an Oct. 1 news release.

The task force initially will focus on investigating and prosecuting health care fraud in VA’s growing Community Care program, under which eligible veterans may receive health care from a private provider in their community (rather than from a VA medical facility), similar to the Medicare program.

As part of the Task Force, a VA inspector general attorney will be detailed to serve as a special prosecutor in the Health Care Fraud Unit of the Fraud Section.

The VA operates the nation’s largest integrated health care system, providing care to approximately nine million veterans at over 1,200 medical facilities. Beginning on June 6, the VA MISSION Act significantly increased veterans’ access to health care by expanding their ability to receive health care from approved non-VA providers (referred to as community care providers). As with the Medicare program, these community care providers submit claims to the VA for payment for their services.

“It is beyond the pale when individuals commit fraud against health care programs designed to assist the men and women who have served in our nation’s military,” said Assistant Attorney General Brian A. Benczkowski of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division. “This new Task Force leverages the proven success of the Department’s Strike Force model and will aggressively target fraud in the VA’s expanding health care programs.”

“Combating health care fraud is one of our highest priorities…” VA Inspector General Michael J. Missa said. “Our agents in the VA-OIG are experts at detecting and investigating health care fraud in VA’s complex and diverse health care system. We are enthusiastic about the opportunity to tap into the wealth of knowledge and expertise of DOJ and the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, particularly in the fee-for-service environment.”

Missa also said: “As the VA MISSION Act expands VA’s Community Care program, this is one of those rare opportunities in government where we can be proactive and get ahead of the curve by partnering with the Fraud Section and leveraging its proven strategies for combating fraud in the Medicare program. This Task Force sends a clear message to anyone considering committing health care fraud at VA – we will protect our veterans’ health care system at all costs.”

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