Founder of VBEP and Board President of PARIS retires

Bill Allman, Founder of Washington’s state Veteran Benefit Enhancement Program (VBEP), and President of the Board of Public Assistance Reporting Information System (PARIS) will retire at the end of this year.

Allman founded the VBEP program in Washington State in 2003. The program connects veterans to TRICARE benefits offered through the VA by notifying them of the military benefits they qualify for by using PARIS. The impetus of the program began in 2002, when Allman was working for the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services.

 

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He received a bill from a veteran’s wife, for nearly $75,000 for Medicaid repayment. However, after looking into it, Allman quickly determined that both the veteran and his wife were eligible for TRICARE, which would have covered all their medical costs. He began to wonder how many veterans were unaware of these benefits.

Allman’s program has expanded beyond Washington State to 32 other states. This program has led to over $68 million in Medicaid savings, and can be accessed through the Washington State Health Care Authority.

We spoke with Mr. Allman about his career and his hopes for the program he developed, and his personal goals going forward into retirement. When asked what his proudest professional accomplishment was, he said connecting “thousands and thousands of veterans to benefits that they likely would never have known they were eligible for.”

“You’d be surprised to see how shocked veterans are” to learn that they are eligible for a number of benefits they weren’t accessing.

In his experience, most veterans don’t know that they qualify for health care services. Any vet who has enrolled for two years, is eligible for VA health care. Many veterans are simply unaware that they qualify for VA coverage.

“Most people hear ‘veteran’ and think deployment or war. But in reality, you only need to have two years of honorable service to receive VA benefits.”

As reported by Allman, only 27% of eligible veterans access the health care they are entitled to.  This doesn’t include the spouses of veterans who are also eligible, but not accessing care.

In retirement, Allman hopes to continue working in this sphere. Through consulting and volunteering, he hopes to bring this program into the remaining 18 states. In particular, he would love to see it expanded to states like Florida and Hawaii, where there are high populations of vets and retired vets who could benefit from this program.

When asked how he would handle this at a federal level, Allman described an idea that is both comprehensive and simple.

Throughout his career, he has demonstrated the benefits of data systems communicating with each other. He would suggest integrating the BIRLS system (a system that identifies all honorably discharged veterans) with the other federal databases, to identify all eligible veterans to receive TRICARE. By simply identifying all eligible veterans throughout the country, distributing information about potential eligibility could have a significant impact on the numbers of vets accessing services currently.

We asked what he saw the biggest obstacles to implementing this program in the other 18 states, and he responded that it can be difficult to get the VA and Medicaid to work together. The State VA departments may be reticent to work with a federal agency that would be increasing their workload. To get all 73% of eligible veterans moved to the VA health benefits they are entitled, VA staff would have to work three times their current rate. This transition could be difficult for staff already stretched thin.

 “I want to make sure I do everything in my power to make sure all 50 states have this program,” Allman said.

Allman feels confident that VBEP is left in capable hands. He leaves the program to Tim Dalen, who, in Allman’s words, will “take the VBEP to the next level.”