VA is missing opportunities to better understand the health status of veterans receiving disability payments who are treated in VA facilities, GAO has said.
It said that above half of VA disability beneficiaries had at least one outpatient visit in 2018 to treat an injury or illness that VA deemed was incurred or aggravated during military service. “However, the health outcomes of veterans with service-connected conditions, such as changes in the severity of symptoms or the incidence of mortality, are not well understood,” a report said. One reason, it said, is that “data reside in different VA systems and use different identifiers for medical conditions, hindering use of the data.”
VA recently updated its procedures manual to specify which staff may determine whether a veteran’s condition should be reevaluated, “but has not clearly defined skill sets and training needed to consistently implement these procedures. Specifically, the updated procedures do not indicate the knowledge, skills, and abilities staff need to determine when to conduct reevaluations” and the VA has not aligned its training with those skills, it said.
GAO recommended that VA develop a plan to address challenges to studying health outcomes, use information on reevaluations to improve program management, and improve procedures and training for reevaluations.
The VA generally agreed but its proposed actions “do not fully address” GAO’s concerns, the report said.