Plaintiffs in a recent lawsuit have accused the state of Florida of refusing to pay Medicaid benefits to Veterans Affairs pensioners and their heirs. The case centers around an 84-year-old woman whom the state planned to remove from its ongoing care program. The woman, the widow of a military veteran, lives on a fixed annual income of around $20,000, but a letter to her brother from the Department of Children and Families suggested that she had too much money to qualify for Medicaid assistance.

In addition to the widow, the lawsuit against the state also demands reinstatement of Medicaid coverage and damages for other beneficiaries who may have been denied rightful benefits. The plaintiffs argue that there is a large, unrecorded number of VA beneficiaries who have been removed from Medicaid rolls. They claim that such actions directly violated a 1987 injunction meant to protect eligible individuals from being denied state aid.

Prosecutors have resurrected the 1987 case, but the original primary litigants have since died, as has the case's judge. Additionally, the original suit was filed against the Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services, which is now defunct.

The case concluded with the judge ordering the department to cease from counting VA benefits for unreimbursed medical costs as income for the purposes of determining eligibility for state aid. Florida appealed the decision and lost, causing the injunction to become settled law, but prosecutors in the new case argue that the state has been acting in violation of the decision for at least the last ten years. The lawsuit claims that the state's failure to abide by the ruling has caused an ever-increasing amount of suffering from the suit's class members.

Source: Miami Herald, "Suit alleges state wrongly denied Medicaid benefits to VA pensioners," Adam. H. Beasley, Aug. 30, 2011