GAO Reports on Veterans’ Health Care in the Pacific
Washington, D.C. – Congresswoman Madeleine Z. Bordallo issued the following statement regarding a report published today, April 12, 2018, by the Government Accountability Office on the veterans’ health care in the Pacific.
Congresswoman Bordallo, Congresswoman Aumua Amata Coleman Radewagen (R-AS), and Congressman Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan (D-NMI) requested the report through a provision in Public Law 114-497, the Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2017. The GAO found that while most veterans received primary and mental health care from the Department of Veterans Affairs Pacific Islands Heath Care System (VAPIHCS) within timeliness goals, veterans also experienced delays related to the processing of their enrollment applications, contacting them for appointment scheduling, and completing comprehensive mental health evaluations.
The GAO makes four recommendations to the Department of Veterans Affairs for executive action:
- The Secretary of VA should ensure that VAPIHCS review its referral process for referrals to DOD providers, including referral cancellation, to determine why VHA policy is not being adhered to and make changes as needed.
- The Secretary of VA should ensure that VAPIHCS clarify guidance to clearly define and document roles and responsibilities for VAPIHCS staff involved in the referral process with Naval Hospital Guam (NHG).
- The Secretary of VA should ensure that VAPIHCS improves the monitoring of referrals and communication with NHG to ensure the timely management of referrals to NHG, including verifying the availability of services for veterans; ensuring referrals are entered into NHG’s electronic medical record system; and obtaining information about the status of scheduling appointments for veterans.
- The Secretary of VA should ensure that VAPIHCS evaluates the effectiveness of strategies it currently uses to promote physician recruitment and retention, including how the strategies could be improved. The plan should also include an assessment of whether additional strategies currently offered by VHA would be beneficial.
“Our veterans deserve better. Some progress has been made to improve health care services for veterans who live on Guam and the other Pacific territories, but this report underscores that more needs to be done. It is unacceptable that some of our veterans have to wait an average of 75 days for care when utilizing the VA Choice Program, or 47 days when going to a DOD facility. I encourage the VA to swiftly implement the GAO’s recommendations. This report is also helpful as I continue advocating in Congress for better care and services for veterans who sacrificed much for our island and nation.”
Full report can be found at: https://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-18-288