Skills gaps and inadequate training in the HR offices of Veterans Health Administration medical centers are hampering the VA’s ability to effectively service veterans, and those offices “have limited authority to oversee and hold medical centers accountable for delivering essential HR services, such as recruiting and training staff,” GAO has said.

“Attrition of medical center HR staff increased between fiscal years 2013 and 2015, due to HR staff transferring to other federal agencies. VHA officials note a lack of HR capacity has impacted their ability to recruit and hire critical clinical staff,” a report said.

“Inadequate oversight” of those HR offices further limits the ability to monitor HR improvement efforts and ensure that HR staff apply policies consistently, such as for position classification, it said. Further, the VHA does not conduct comprehensive skills gap assessments and has limited ability to monitor the effectiveness of HR training, according to GAO.

One further result, it said, is that due to shortcomings in performance management policies, the agency “may not be positioned to make meaningful distinctions in employee performance.”

The report said the VA agreed with most of GAO’s recommendations to improve the HR capacity and oversight of HR functions at its medical centers; develop a modern, credible employee performance management system; and establish clear accountability for efforts to improve employee engagement.