Congressional Auditors Say VA Healthcare Is High Risk

Secretary of Veterans' Affairs Bob McDonald has vowed to move aggressively to revamp the VA. He launched the MyVA initiative in September devoted to improving customer service for veterans. (Photo: Ben Gray, AP)
Secretary of Veterans’ Affairs Bob McDonald has vowed to move aggressively to revamp the VA. He launched the MyVA initiative in September devoted to improving customer service for veterans.
(Photo: Ben Gray, AP)

The Department of Veterans’ Affairs vast health network — beset by a scandal last year over delayed care — has been listed as a high-risk federal program by congressional auditors for the first time.

The report by the watchdog Government Accountability Office, which is issued every two years, includes a broad indictment of the $55.5 billion VA program, one of the nation’s largest health care systems. USA TODAY obtained the VA section of the report, scheduled for release Wednesday.

The number of aging or disabled veterans treated by the VA has grown to 8.9 million from 6.8 million in 2002, and Congress has increased funding by 85% during that time.

Yet problems with poor health care, delayed doctor appointments and leadership accountability and oversight persist, according to the report. The GAO said it keeps issuing audits identifying problems — eight just last year — but more than 100 areas of mismanagement remain unresolved, according to the report.

VA spokesman James Hutton, in a response, said the department is committed to becoming a “model agency” and example for other government programs to emulate.

“In many ways, (the VA health care system) is on the cutting edge of the industry. In other areas, we realize we need to make significant improvements,” Hutton said.

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Source: USA Today | Gregg Zoroya

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