VA and Defense Health Care:

Progress and Challenges DOD Faces in Executing a Military Medical Surveillance System

GAO-02-173T: Published: Oct 16, 2001. Publicly Released: Oct 16, 2001.

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Stephen P. Backhus
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The Departments of Defense (DOD) and Veterans Affairs (VA) are establishing a medical surveillance system for the health care needs of military personnel and veterans. The system will collect and analyze information on deployments, environmental health threats, disease monitoring, medical assessments, and medical encounters. GAO has identified weaknesses in DOD's medical surveillance capability and performance during the Gulf War and Operation Joint Endeavor. Investigations into the unexplained illnesses of Gulf War veterans uncovered many deficiencies in DOD's ability to collect, maintain, and transfer accurate data on the movement of troops, potential exposures to health risks, and medical incidents during deployment. DOD has several initiatives under way to improve the reliability of deployment information and to enhance its information technology capabilities, though some initiatives are several years away from full implementation. The VA's ability to serve veterans and provide backup to DOD in times of war will be enhanced as DOD increases its medical surveillance capability.

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