The VA Office of Inspector General (OIG) reviewed key aspects of VA’s spina bifida program in response to wide-ranging concerns raised by Senator Michael K. Braun and by Vietnam Veterans of America. The concerns were about whether eligible individuals are receiving the compensation, health care, home services, and other related benefits to which they are entitled.
Regular monthly payments under this small but critical program serving more than 1,000 beneficiaries with disabilities exceeded $20.8 million in 2019, and medical reimbursements topped $45 million.
Spina bifida is a birth defect that occurs when a fetus’s spine and spinal cord do not form properly. An individual with spina bifida may suffer from nerve damage, paralysis, and bowel or bladder problems.
Children born with spina bifida may receive benefits from VA if one of their biological parents is a veteran presumed to have been exposed to herbicides during the Vietnam War.
Benefits can include monthly payments, vocational training and rehabilitation, and health care with services such as home care and case management.
The spina bifida program is jointly managed. The Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) determines eligibility for benefits and issues monthly payments. The Veterans Health Administration (VHA) covers all medically necessary health care, which includes all medical services and supplies, not just those related to spina bifida. The OIG assessed how effectively VBA and VHA carried out their respective responsibilities in managing the spina bifida program.