DOD and VA: Preliminary Observations on Efforts to Improve Health Care and Disability Evaluations for Returning Servicemembers

GAO-07-1256T Published: Sep 26, 2007. Publicly Released: Sep 26, 2007.
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In February 2007, a series of Washington Post articles disclosed troublesome deficiencies in the provision of outpatient services at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, raising concerns about the care for returning servicemembers. These deficiencies included a confusing disability evaluation system and servicemembers in outpatient status for months and sometimes years without a clear understanding about their plan of care. The reported problems at Walter Reed prompted broader questions about whether the Department of Defense (DOD) as well as the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) are fully prepared to meet the needs of returning servicemembers. In response to the deficiencies reported at Walter Reed, the Army took a number of actions and DOD formed a joint DOD-VA Senior Oversight Committee. This statement provides information on the near-term actions being taken by the Army and the broader efforts of the Senior Oversight Committee to address longer-term systemic problems that impact health care and disability evaluations for returning servicemembers. Preliminary observations in this testimony are based largely on documents obtained from and interviews with Army officials, and DOD and VA representatives of the Senior Oversight Committee, as well as on GAO's extensive past work. We discussed the facts contained in this statement with DOD and VA.

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