Results Act:

Observations on VA's Fiscal Year 1999 Performance Plan

HEHS-98-181R: Published: Jun 10, 1998. Publicly Released: Jun 10, 1998.

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Stephen P. Backhus
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Office of Public Affairs
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GAO reviewed the Department of Veterans Affairs' (VA) annual performance plan for fiscal year (FY) 1999.

GAO noted that: (1) overall, VA's FY 1999 performance plan, as supplemented by other parts of VA's FY 1999 budget submission, contains performance goals and measures that: (a) are presented in a manner that shows VA's intended performance, for comparison with actual performance; (b) cover all of VA's major business lines and the program activities in VA's budget request; and (c) are linked to VA's mission, strategic goals, objectives, and performance goals as stated in its September 1997 strategic plan; (2) the performance plan and other portions of the budget submission: (a) identify numerous crosscutting activities with other federal agencies, state and local governments, and the private sector; (b) describe strategies for achieving performance goals; and (c) discuss VA's initiatives to improve the validity and reliability of performance data used to support the plan's performance measures; (3) the most significant challenge for VA in its performance planning under the Government Performance and Results Act is to develop performance measures, primarily for the Veterans Benefits Administration's (VBA) benefit business lines; (4) the performance plan's lack of results-oriented goals and measures for some VBA business lines reflects the lack of results-oriented strategic goals in these areas; (5) the first section is intended to provide results-oriented strategic and performance goals for VA's business lines; (6) the second section is intended to provide process-oriented goals such as improving customer satisfaction with VA services; (7) as VA continues to develop results-oriented strategic goals over the next several years, it should be able to update future performance plans to incorporate more performance measures that focus on program results, better describe strategies for achieving performance goals, and identify data to be used to measure how well VA is achieving results; and (8) other significant challenges for VA as it refines its annual performance plan in future years include: (a) improving the linkage between VA's performance goals and measures and the program activities in VA's budget accounts; (b) identifying more opportunities to coordinate programs and activities with other federal agencies, state and local governments, and the private sector; (c) improving the performance plan's discussion of the strategies and resources VA plans to use to achieve its strategic and performance goals; and (d) improving, through improvements in VA's financial and information systems, VA's ability to obtain valid and reliable performance and cost data needed to measure VA's progress in achieving performance goals.

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