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Priority Open Recommendations: Department of Veterans Affairs

GAO-20-537PR Published: Apr 20, 2020. Publicly Released: Apr 27, 2020.
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Fast Facts

Each year, we make more than 1,000 recommendations to help improve the federal government. We alert department heads to the recommendations where they can save the most money, address issues on our High Risk List, or significantly improve government operations.

This report outlines our 33 priority open recommendations for the Department of Veterans Affairs as of April 2020.

We recognize VA is engaged in the COVID-19 pandemic response. When VA is able to refocus its efforts, addressing GAO’s open recommendations could significantly improve VA operations.

Since our previous letter in March 2019, VA implemented 10 of our priority recommendations

VA open priority recommendations graphic

VA open priority recommendations graphic

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What GAO Found

In March 2019, GAO identified 30 priority recommendations for the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Since then, VA has implemented 10 of those recommendations by, among other things, taking actions to ensure employees are protected against retaliation and helping ensure timely and accurate processing of veterans' enrollment applications. In addition to the 10 recommendations that VA has implemented, we closed one priority recommendation as unimplemented and removed the priority designation from another recommendation.

In April 2020, GAO identified 15 additional priority recommendations for VA, bringing the total number to 33. These recommendations involve improving oversight and management in the following areas:

  • veterans' access to timely health care;
  • veterans' community care program;
  • human capital;
  • information technology;
  • appeals reform for disability benefits;
  • quality of care and patient safety;
  • efficiency within the VA health care system;
  • national policy documents;
  • contracting policies and practices;
  • capital planning.

GAO recognizes the strain that VA and its component agencies are under given that they are focused on the nation's efforts to respond to and recover from the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. As VA is able to refocus its efforts, addressing the high priority recommendations identified above has the potential to significantly improve VA's operations.

Why GAO Did This Study

Priority open recommendations are the GAO recommendations that warrant priority attention from heads of key departments or agencies because their implementation could save large amounts of money; improve congressional and/or executive branch decision-making on major issues; eliminate mismanagement, fraud, and abuse; or ensure that programs comply with laws and funds are legally spent, among other benefits. Since 2015, GAO has sent letters to selected agencies to highlight the importance of implementing such recommendations.

For more information, contact A. Nicole Clowers at (202) 512-7114 or

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Access to health careAppealsAppeals processCybersecurityDisability benefitsHealth careHigh-risk issuesHuman capital managementInformation technologyPatient carePolicies and proceduresQuality of careVeteransVeterans health care