VA Health Care:

Exploring Options to Improve Veterans' Access to VA Facilities

HEHS-96-52: Published: Feb 6, 1996. Publicly Released: Feb 6, 1996.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO provided information on veterans' use of Department of Veterans Affairs' (VA) medical facilities, focusing on: (1) users' characteristics; (2) the geographic accessibility of VA and private medical facilities that provide standard benefits; and (3) options to improve accessibility of VA health care.

GAO found that: (1) in the early 1990s, over 80 percent of veterans who received health care services obtained them from non-VA sources; (2) veterans who used VA medical facilities generally had lower incomes and were less likely to have private health insurance than veterans who obtained health care from non-VA facilities: (3) veterans with service-connected disabilities utilized VA facilities more often than other veterans; (4) about 50 percent of all veterans lived over 25 miles from a VA facility and 11 percent of veterans lived within 5 miles of a VA hospital; (5) although VA hospitals and outpatient clinics were geographically less accessible to veterans than private medical facilities, veterans had better access to certain specialty services through VA facilities; (6) options to improve veterans' access to VA health care include determining whether to improve access for current users, all veterans, or selected veterans groups, and comparing the costs of VA-provided services and contractor-provided services; and (7) although VA facilities are more costly to operate, they lessen the chances of program abuse by giving VA more control over resources.

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