The VA’s facilities planning process is failing to take into account some expectations of veterans relevant to the decisions, GAO has said.
The VA is assessing its current structure and future needs under a provision of the 2018 VA MISSION Act reacting to the department’s shortages in some localities—but excess in others—due to changing population and care trends since existing facilities were built. GAO credited the VA with including in that process demographic trends to assess veterans’ future health-care needs, such as the need for more long-term care or women’s health care services.
“VA does not, however, systematically collect data concerning whether demographic groups differ in their expectations for how they will receive care, such as whether some groups expect different levels of privacy,” it said. For example, younger veterans “may prioritize “telehealth” more than older veterans,” women “may prefer to receive certain types of care in gender-separated environments,” and some veterans “may have a greater expectation for a holistic approach to their care.”
While the VA does gather some such information by talking with veterans and their organizations, but “the amount of information VA collected through these methods is limited. Without robust data about veterans’ expectations and assessing how changes would affect facilities’ space needs, VA cannot readily anticipate and adapt to meet veterans’ changing expectations.”
In speaking with facility-planning officials, GAO also found that most of them had concerns about the department’s method for converting estimated needs into space requirements, including questions about the accuracy of the data.