VA and DOD Health Care:

Progress Made on Implementation of 2003 President's Task Force Recommendations on Collaboration and Coordination, but More Remains to Be Done

GAO-08-495R: Published: Apr 30, 2008. Publicly Released: Apr 30, 2008.

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Improving collaboration and health resource sharing between the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and the Department of Defense (DOD) has been the focus of numerous efforts by Congress and the executive branch for more than two decades. In 1982, Congress passed the Veterans' Administration and Department of Defense Health Resources Sharing and Emergency Operations Act (Sharing Act), which authorized VA and DOD health care facilities to partner and enter into sharing agreements to buy, sell, and barter medical and support services. Since then, Congress has passed additional legislation to continue to promote VA and DOD health resource sharing. However, in previous work we have pointed out continuing barriers to such efforts, including incompatible computer systems that affect the exchange of patient health information, inconsistent reimbursement and budgeting policies, and burdensome processes for approving agreements between the departments. On May 28, 2001, the President established the 15-member President's Task Force to Improve Health Care Delivery for Our Nation's Veterans. The task force's mission was to identify ways to improve coordination and sharing between VA and DOD in order to improve health care for servicemembers and veterans. The task force reviewed barriers and challenges in several areas related to coordination, including leadership, transition to veteran status, and improving quality of health care. In May 2003, it made recommendations to VA and DOD to increase collaboration and coordination between the two departments to improve health care delivery. The task force also recommended that the administration take action through the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to help improve VA and DOD collaboration, and that Congress take additional action to improve such collaboration. Other more recent task force and commission reports have voiced similar concerns and identified more areas for improvement. Congress asked us to examine the status of VA and DOD's efforts in implementing the 2003 task force recommendations. Specifically, this report describes the extent to which VA and DOD have implemented the recommendations of the 2003 President's Task Force to Improve Health Care for Our Nation's Veterans related to collaboration and coordination.

In summary, we found that VA and DOD have made progress in implementing the task force recommendations, but more remains to be done to fully implement all task force recommendations. Seven of the recommendations have been fully implemented and 11 have been partially implemented. We could not determine the status of 1 because of insufficient information, and 1 does not require VA or DOD action.

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