Views on H.R. 3971

B-204289: Published: Sep 15, 1981. Publicly Released: Sep 15, 1981.

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GAO was asked to comment on proposed legislation which would direct the Comptroller General to assign one employee of GAO to each Veterans Administration (VA) facility providing hospital care. The employee would function as an ombudsman, investigating and reporting on patients' complaints of inadequate health care or treatment. GAO was also asked for the estimated costs of the proposal. Many organizations, both within and outside VA, monitor and report quality of health care issues involving VA medical centers. These organizations generally provide means for identifying health care problems and ways to resolve the problems, and they report either the problems or an assessment of the problems to the VA Administrator and Congress. Over the past several years, GAO has conducted many extensive reviews of VA medical programs. GAO believes that the present coverage of patient and health care issues is adequate and, if deficiencies are noted, they can be promptly acted upon by the VA Administrator. The proposed legislation would place GAO in the position of relieving the Administrator of an area of his responsibility; namely, investigating complaints of patient care or treatment and taking prompt corrective action. It would also require GAO to place an extraordinary amount of resources in one limited area and severely impact on the GAO ability to review other Federal programs. GAO believes that the proposed legislation is not necessary and would result in an inefficient and ineffective use of GAO resources. Therefore, GAO recommended that the Committee not report favorably on the bill.

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