Defense Health Care:

Physical Exams and Dental Care Following the Persian Gulf War

HRD-93-5: Published: Oct 15, 1992. Publicly Released: Oct 15, 1992.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO obtained information on the physical examinations provided to discharged service members.

GAO found that: (1) the services did not routinely provide separation physical examinations to all service members discharged following the Persian Gulf War; (2) there is no Department of Defense (DOD) standard or policy regarding examinations and the requirements for them vary among the services; (3) DOD efforts to assess the potential long-term health effects of exposure to environmental conditions and to keep track of potentially affected service members appear adequate; (4) DOD is maintaining a detailed record of environmental conditions and service member location in the Persian Gulf area, and has collected extensive air and soil samples; and (5) DOD paperwork errors have forced the Department of Veterans' Affairs (VA) to deny some veterans' applications for class II dental care.

Matter for Congressional Consideration

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: Congress has not yet considered the matter. Since 3 years have passed, it is unlikely that Congress will act on the recommendations. In addition, DOD's action in response to recommendations reduces the need for legislative change.

    Matter: Congress should amend section 1712 of title 38, U.S.C., the law creating the class II dental benefit, to remove the DOD dental certification requirement. Suggested legislative language to accomplish this is as follows: "SEC. _______. ELIMINATION OF DENTAL CERTIFICATION. "(a) REPEAL OF DENTAL CERTIFICATION WITH VETERAN'S CERTIFICATE OF DISCHARGE. - Section 1712(b)(1)(B) of Title 38, United States Code, is amended: (1) by striking clause (iv); (2) by striking the "and" at the end of clause (iii); and (3) by placing the word "and" at the end of clause (ii). "(b) Subsection (a) is effective with respect to a veteran's certificate of discharge or release from active duty issued on or after the date upon which that subsection is enacted."

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Beginning in June 1995, each service member will be given a medical interview using DOD Form 2697. When clinically indicated, a more comprehensive medical exam will be given, using DOD Form SF88.

    Recommendation: The Secretaries of Defense and Veterans Affairs should analyze the trade-offs of providing examinations and establish a policy on separation examinations that balances the separation processing needs of the military with the VA need for data to support the disability compensation claims adjudication process.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOD's policy requiring uniform separation health interviews/exams took effect on June 15, 1995. The Department of Veterans Affairs anticipates new procedures to be in place by November 1995. This will eliminate earlier interdepartmental problems created for VA, as originally reported by GAO.

    Recommendation: The Secretaries of Defense and Veterans Affairs should analyze the trade-offs of providing examinations and establish a policy on separation examinations that balances the separation processing needs of the military with the VA need for data to support the disability compensation claims adjudication process.

    Agency Affected: Department of Veterans Affairs

 

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