Defense Health Care: Quality Assurance Process Needed to Improve Force Health Protection and Surveillance

GAO-03-1041 Published: Sep 19, 2003. Publicly Released: Sep 19, 2003.
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Highlights

Following the 1990-91 Persian Gulf War, many servicemembers experienced health problems that they attributed to their military service in the Persian Gulf. However, a lack of servicemember health and deployment data hampered subsequent investigations into the nature and causes of these illnesses. Public Law 105-85, enacted in November 1997, required the Department of Defense (DOD) to establish a system to assess the medical condition of service members before and after deployments. GAO was asked to determine whether (1) the military services met DOD's force health protection and surveillance requirements for servicemembers deploying in support of Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) in Central Asia and Operation Joint Guardian (OJG) in Kosovo and (2) DOD has corrected problems related to the accuracy and completeness of databases reflecting which servicemembers were deployed to certain locations.

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Recommendations

Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Department of Defense To improve compliance with DOD's force health protection and surveillance policies, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs to establish an effective quality assurance program, as required by section 765 of Public Law 105-85 (10 U.S.C. 1074f), that will ensure that the military services comply with the force health protection and surveillance requirements for all servicemembers.
Closed – Implemented
DOD and the military services have responded appropriately to GAO's recommendations. In September 2003, GAO recommended that the Secretary of Defense direct the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs to establish an effective quality assurance program that will help ensure that the military services comply with the force health protection and surveillance requirements for all service members. On January 9, 2004, the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs issued HA Policy: 04-001 entitled, "Policy for Department of Defense Health Quality Assurance Program." It stated that this memorandum established a quality assurance program that "supports the Force Health Protection requirements associated with ongoing deployments and identified during review by the General Accounting Office." The policy became effective immediately.

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