Alcoholism Screening Procedures at VA Medical Centers

T-HRD-91-15: Published: Apr 18, 1991. Publicly Released: Apr 18, 1991.

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GAO discussed five Department of Veterans Affairs' (VA) medical centers' procedures for diagnosing and treating veterans' alcohol use problems. GAO noted that: (1) 29 percent of the veterans it surveyed at the five centers indicated that they had alcohol use problems, and an additional 14 percent provided information that raised suspicion of alcohol use problems; (2) the five centers provided alcohol treatment to fewer than 3 percent of the veterans applying for medical care during fiscal year 1990, primarily due to physician failure to diagnose alcohol use problems; (3) at the five centers, physicians' screening practices varied widely; (4) few physicians routinely or systematically screened all veterans applying for health care for potential alcohol use problems; (5) of 26,143 veterans surveyed nationwide in 1987, 60 percent were unaware that VA provided alcohol treatment; (6) the Department of Health and Human Services reported that physicians often failed to diagnose alcohol problems due to inadequate training; and (7) VA medical centers should systematically screen veterans for potential alcohol use problems when they apply for health care.

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