VA Health Care:

Allocation of Resources to Medical Facilities in the Sun Belt

HRD-86-70: Published: May 6, 1986. Publicly Released: May 6, 1986.

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Pursuant to congressional requests, GAO provided information on: (1) whether the Veterans Administration (VA) provides equal access to care for veterans in the Sun Belt region; (2) seasonal fluctuations in veterans' demand for care in the Sun Belt and other areas; and (3) whether VA considers changes in demand for care when it allocates resources to its medical centers.

GAO found that: (1) from 1981 to 1985, the Sun Belt veteran population increased by about 0.6 percent, while the veteran population elsewhere declined by about 3.7 percent; (2) during the same period, veterans' demand for health care in the Sun Belt increased by 11 percent, compared with 7 percent elsewhere; (3) the proportion of the total VA workload that was carried out at Sun Belt facilities during the same period decreased; (4) funding for VA Sun Belt facilities increased more during the same period than did funding for facilities in other parts of the country; and (5) while some facilities in Florida were unable to provide care for veterans with non-service-connected conditions, facilities elsewhere were underutilized. GAO also found that: (1) VA Sun Belt facilities generally experience greater demand for care during winter months; and (2) some VA officials do not believe that migrating veterans have a very large impact on seasonal fluctuations in demand and workload. In addition, GAO found that: (1) VA attributed instances of the denial of timely medical care to ineligibility, physician judgments, unavailability of treatment, and administrative errors; (2) most instances of denial of timely care occurred in connection with nonemergency, non-service-connected conditions; and (3) a VA study showed that instances of denial of care were more frequent at facilities in Florida and the rest of the Sun Belt than in the rest of the nation.

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