VA and Defense Health Care:

Progress Made, but DOD Continues To Face Military Medical Surveillance System Challenges

GAO-02-377T: Published: Jan 24, 2002. Publicly Released: Jan 24, 2002.

Additional Materials:


Cynthia A. Bascetta
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Office of Public Affairs
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GAO, the Institute of Medicine, and others have cited weaknesses in the Defense Department's (DOD) medical surveillance during the Gulf War and Operation Joint Endeavor. DOD was unable to collect, maintain, and transfer accurate data on the movement of troops, potential exposures to health risks, and medical incidents during deployment in the Gulf war. DOD improved its medical surveillance system under Operation Joint Endeavor, providing useful information to military commanders and medical personnel. However, GAO found several problems with this system. For example, incomplete or inaccurate information related to service members' health and deployment status. DOD's has not established a single, comprehensive electronic system to document, archive, and access medical surveillance data. DOD has begun several initiatives to improve the reliability of deployment information and to enhance its information technology capabilities, but some initiatives are several years away from full implementation. Nonetheless, these efforts reflect a commitment by DOD to establish a comprehensive medical surveillance system. The ability of the Department of Veterans Affairs to fulfill its role in serving veterans and providing backup to DOD in times of war will be enhanced as DOD increases its medical surveillance capability.

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