VA Mental Health: Number of Veterans Receiving Care, Barriers Faced, and Efforts to Increase Access
In fiscal year 2010, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) provided health care to about 5.2 million veterans. Recent legislation has increased many Operations Enduring Freedom (OEF) and Iraqi Freedom (OIF) veterans' priority for accessing VA's health care, and concerns have been raised about the extent to which VA is providing mental health care to eligible veterans of all eras. There also are concerns that barriers may hinder some veterans from accessing needed mental health care. GAO was asked to provide information on veterans who receive mental health care from VA. In this report, GAO provides information on (1) how many veterans received mental health care from VA from fiscal years 2006 through 2010, (2) key barriers that may hinder veterans from accessing mental health care from VA, and (3) VA efforts to increase veterans' access to VA mental health care. GAO obtained data from VA's Northeast Program Evaluation Center (NEPEC) on the number of veterans who received mental health care from VA. The number of veterans represents a unique count of veterans; veterans were counted only once, even if they received care multiple times during a fiscal year or across the 5-year period. GAO also reviewed literature published from 2006 to 2011, reviewed VA documents, and interviewed officials from VA and veterans service organizations (VSO).