The VA has made only partial progress in addressing personnel-related issues on the GAO high-risk list, GAO recently told a House subcommittee, adding that of the more than 1,200 recommendations to VA since 2000, more than 125 related to health care, 15 related to improving acquisition management and 12 related to management of disability claims workloads remain open.
For example, while there has been some progress in developing a department-wide training plan to better ensure that VA staff are adequately trained to provide high-quality care to veterans, there still are no clear goals to be achieved, a witness said, and not all goal descriptions that exist correspond to planned actions. While the VA agreed with the GAO’s recommendation to routinely assess training needs and monitor training completion, that recommendation remains open.
Similarly, GAO said that VA agreed with, but hasn’t fully carried out, a recommendation to address issues with data related to employee misconduct and disciplinary actions, data that it found suffers from fragmentation, reliability issues, and inadequate guidance, leaving management “hindered in making knowledgeable decisions regarding the extent of misconduct and how it was addressed.”
The department also continues to lack data on the number of contract physicians and physician trainees “and thus has no information on the extent to which medical centers nationwide use these arrangements and whether contract physicians are working in mission-critical occupations,” GAO said.
It added that the VA is facing the issues that caused GAO to designate human capital management as at high risk government-wide, saying that as of year-end 2018, there was an 11 percent vacancy rate at medical facilities, including 24,000 medical and dental positions and 900 human resource positions. Further, it said, 32 percent of the VA workforce will be eligible to retire within the next five years.