Defense Health Care:

Post-Deployment Health Reassessment Documentation Needs Improvement

GAO-10-56: Published: Nov 19, 2009. Publicly Released: Nov 19, 2009.

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The Department of Defense (DOD) implemented the post-deployment health reassessment (PDHRA), which is required to be administered to servicemembers 90 to 180 days after their return from deployment. DOD established the PDHRA program to identify and address servicemembers' health concerns that emerge over time following deployments. This report is the second in response to a Senate Armed Services Committee report directing the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to review DOD's administration of the PDHRA, and to additional congressional requests. In this report, GAO examined (1) the extent to which DOD's central repository contains PDHRA questionnaires for active and Reserve component servicemembers who returned from deployment to Iraq or Afghanistan and (2) how DOD monitors the administration of the PDHRA to Reserve component servicemembers. To conduct this review, GAO performed a quantitative analysis using DOD deployment and PDHRA data, reviewed relevant PDHRA policies, and interviewed DOD officials.

DOD policy requires that the military services electronically submit PDHRA questionnaires to DOD's central repository. Based on two separate queries to this repository in 2009, GAO did not find PDHRA questionnaires for a substantial percentage of the 319,000 active and Reserve component servicemembers who returned from deployment to Iraq or Afghanistan between January 1, 2007, and May 31, 2008. GAO's first query on April 15, 2009, showed that only 77 percent of this population of interest had questionnaires in the central repository, leaving approximately 74,000 servicemembers without questionnaires in the repository. On September 4, 2009, GAO queried DOD's central repository again to update its April 2009 data and found that DOD's central repository was still missing PDHRA questionnaires for about 72,000 servicemembers, or 23 percent of the servicemembers in GAO's original population of interest. When PDHRA questionnaires are not in DOD's central repository, DOD does not have reasonable assurance that servicemembers to whom the PDHRA requirement applies were given the opportunity to fill out the questionnaire and identify and address health concerns that could emerge over time following deployment. DOD uses four methods to monitor the contractor, Logistics Health, Inc. (LHI), that administers the PDHRA to Reserve component servicemembers. The four monitoring methods are: (1) reviews of periodic reports from LHI; (2) inspections of LHI's administration of the PDHRA; (3) feedback on LHI's administration of the PDHRA from military service officials; and (4) weekly telephone discussions with LHI staff. These methods are used to help ensure that the objective of the PDHRA program is being met for Reserve component servicemembers. Through these methods, DOD identified a number of potential problems that may pose risks to the PDHRA program objective and to the welfare and safety of Reserve component servicemembers. However, GAO found that when monitoring the administration of the PDHRA to Reserve component servicemembers, DOD does not maintain clear documentation that is consistent with federal internal control standards. GAO found that the documentation generated by DOD generally did not clearly describe the potential problems, the actions taken to address the problems, and whether these actions had resolved the problems. Overall, this lack of clear documentation does not allow DOD to have reasonable assurance that potential problems related to the administration of the PDHRA to Reserve component servicemembers have been addressed and resolved.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Open

    Comments: In its comments to this report, the Department of Defense (DOD) concurred with this recommendation. On October 2009, DOD's Force Health Protection and Response Office sent a memo to each of the military service Surgeons General emphasizing the need for the post-deployment health reassessment (PDHRA) to be offered to all service members who are eligible to complete the assessment. In 2010, DOD's noted that the services would work with the Armed Forces Health Surveillance Center (AFHSC) repository to ensure PDHRAs are submitted correctly, without transmission errors. DOD's 2011 case records showed that the Air Force and Army had developed data verification processes to ensure that AFHSC received PDHRAs. Further, the Defense Medical Data Center (DMDC) had planed to create a file consisting of the date of deployment for deployed personnel, and that the file would be available to the services in order to match DMDC with data from each of the service-specific systems, in accordance to requirements. In September 2011, although DMDC and the services had agreed to match rosters of deployed service members, there were still inconsistencies in deployment dates. In March 2012, DOD was still verifying data inconsistencies which, until resolved, leads to inaccurate reporting based on errors in the deployment dates.

    Recommendation: To help DOD obtain reasonable assurance that all active and Reserve component servicemembers to whom the PDHRA requirement applies are provided the opportunity to have their health concerns identified, the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs and the military services should take steps to ensure that PDHRA questionnaires are included in DOD's central repository for each of these servicemembers.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOD's Reserve Health Readiness Program (RHRP) office had relied on four methods to monitor the Logistics Health, Inc. (LHI)administration of the Post-Deployment Health Reassessment (PDHRA) to Reserve component service members. However, using these methods, the office did not always clearly document its monitoring of the PDHRA program. To ensure adequate documentation of problems that could pose risks to the objective of the PDHRA program for Reserve component service members, GAO recommended that the RHRP office document the information obtained through monitoring the PDHRA program in a manner consistent with federal internal control standards. The DAMIS record states that the RHRP office has revised the way it documents its monitoring of the PDHRA program so that others can understand concerns raised, the actions taken to address concerns, and the ultimate resolution of the concerns. The electronic email filing system has been revised so pertinent messages can quickly be found. The RHRP office has also established an electronic system so others, in addition to the assigned PDHRA official, can access information regarding identified concerns and their resolution. In addition, we obtained documentation from RHRP offices that supports this.

    Recommendation: To ensure adequate documentation of problems that may pose risks to the objective of the PDHRA program for Reserve component servicemembers, the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs should require the RHRP office to document the information obtained through monitoring the PDHRA program in a manner consistent with federal internal control standards.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

 

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