Observations on the Department of Veterans Affairs' Fiscal Year 1999 Performance Report and Fiscal Year 2001 Performance Plan
HEHS-00-124R: Published: Jun 30, 2000. Publicly Released: Aug 1, 2000.
Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the Department of Veterans Affairs' (VA) fiscal year (FY) 1999 performance report and FY 2001 performance plans by the Governmental Performance and Results Act.
GAO noted that: (1) VA's FY 1999 performance showed progress in providing quality health care at a reasonable cost; (2) although VA did not meet all of its FY 1999 performance goals, it met one of its most important goals--to reduce the average health care cost per patient by 13 percent since FY 1997--actual performance reported was a 16-percent reduction; (3) VA failed to meet its FY 1999 performance goals related to the timely and accurate processing of veterans' benefit claims; (4) these goals covered the accuracy and timeliness of VA decisions on claims for compensation and pension benefits, and the timeliness of resolution of veterans' appeals of claims decisions; (5) VA set a FY 1999 goal to complete decisions on compensation and pension claims in an average of 99 days--actual performance was 166 days; (6) another goal was to resolve initial decisions appealed to VA's Board of Veterans Appeals within an average of 590 days--actual performance was 745 days; (7) the revised FY 2001 goal for claims processing timeliness is 142 days, the goal for appeals resolution timeliness is 650 days; (8) in FY 1999, VA achieved both performance goals related to helping disabled veterans acquire and maintain suitable employment; (9) in particular, 53 percent of veterans who exited the vocational rehabilitation program obtained and maintained suitable employment--technically exceeding the performance goal of 45 percent; (10) while this rehabilitation rate generally shows VA's progress in moving the vocational rehabilitation program's focus toward helping veterans find employment, it does not fully measure program results because it: (a) focuses on veterans who left the program, rather than on all veterans eligible for the program; and (b) does not consider how long it took veterans to complete the program; (11) VA does not have any performance goals and measures directly related to reducing the availability and use of illegal drugs; (12) however, VA slightly exceeded its one performance goal indirectly related to this outcome; (13) in FY 1999, 56 percent of the patients with primary addictive disorders showed improvement in their addiction severity index (ASI) composite scores at 6 months after their initial assessment; and (14) in its FY 2001 performance plan, VA changed its goal to assess the percentage of patients who receive a 6-month follow-up ASI assessment.