Observations on the Department of Veterans Affairs' Fiscal Year 2000 Performance Plan

HEHS-99-138R: Published: Jul 20, 1999. Publicly Released: Aug 18, 1999.

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Stephen P. Backhus
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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the Department of Veterans Affairs' (VA) fiscal year (FY) 2000 performance plan, focusing on: (1) assessing the usefulness of the agency's plan for decisionmaking; and (2) identifying the degree of improvement the agency's FY 2000 performance plan represents over the FY 1999 plan.

GAO noted that: (1) VA's FY 2000 annual performance plan provides a general picture of intended performance across VA, a generally complete discussion of strategies and resources that VA will use to achieve its goals, and limited confidence that VA's performance information will be credible; (2) the plan: (a) presents performance goals and measures, along with baseline and trend data, that cover all of VA's major programs, except that there are no results-oriented goals for FY 2000 for three programs; (b) explicitly links specific strategies and initiatives to each of VA's key performance goals and also summarizes these strategies and initiatives for each major program; and (c) discusses performance information weaknesses that will not be corrected until future years; (3) VA's FY 2000 performance plan represents moderate improvement in addressing weaknesses that GAO identified in its FY 1999 performance plan; (4) for example, the FY 1999 plan included no results-oriented performance goals or measures for Veterans Benefits Administration's compensation, pension, or insurance programs; (5) by contrast, while the FY 2000 plan still does not include results-oriented goals for these three programs, it does provide interim outcome performance goals and measures, although the target level of performance to be achieved for the coming year is not defined; (6) another area of improvement is the discussion of crosscutting activities of other federal agencies, state and local governments, and the private sector; (7) in another area of improvement, the FY 1999 plan did not provide plans and timeframes for completing the conversion of VA's computer systems to avoid year 2000 computer problems; (8) by contrast, the FY 2000 plan states that VA is on target to have all computer system conversions completed and tested by March 1999 and that VA had already renovated 99.7 percent of its mission-critical computer software applications, including all payment-related applications and those supporting health care; and (9) compared with last year's plan, the FY 2000 plan provides an in-depth discussion of VA's actions to begin addressing weaknesses in data systems and performance information.

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