Report Summary

Title: Independent Review of VA’s Special Disabilities Capacity Report for Fiscal Year 2019
Report Number: 21-00612-189 Download
Issue Date: 9/13/2021
VA Office: Office of the Secretary
Report Author: Office of Audits and Evaluations
Report Type: Review
Release Type: Unrestricted

VA must report annually to Congress on its capacity in five areas: (1) spinal cord injury and disorder, (2) traumatic brain injury, (3) blind rehabilitation, (4) prosthetics and sensory aids, and (5) mental health. This reporting requirement was established to ensure that VA’s capacity to serve disabled veterans does not fall below 1996 levels. The OIG is required to report to Congress on the accuracy of VA’s report.

The OIG found some minor errors, data omissions, inaccuracies, and inconsistencies, but found nothing that caused it to believe the capacity report was not fairly stated and accurate in all material respects, with some exceptions noted. Some source data obtained by the review team differed materially or were excluded from some parts of the capacity report appendix, and some statements in the narrative were not consistent with data in accompanying tables. Limitations in data sources and reporting occurred in staffing data that included nonclinical time and in expenditure and cost data whose reliability was uncertain. VA also did not provide all required data. Still, the OIG found VA improved its reporting as a result of the OIG’s previous review.

Despite these improvements, as the OIG previously noted, VA cannot compare its current mental health capacity with its 1996 capacity because of changes in diagnosis and treatment, service provision, and data collection. For example, VA must report on the number of veterans with “serious mental illness,” but VA no longer uses that term. And non-VA care, which veterans increasingly seek, must be excluded from reports on VA’s capacity to provide care. The OIG believes that by modernizing the reporting metrics, Congress would be better positioned to assess VA’s capacity to provide care for today’s disabled veterans.