Report Summary

Title: The Veterans Health Administration Needs to Do More to Promote Emotional Well-Being Supports Amid the COVID-19 Pandemic
Report Number: 21-00533-157 Download
Issue Date: 5/10/2022
VA Office: Veterans Health Administration (VHA)
Report Author: Office of Healthcare Inspections
Report Type: National Healthcare Review
Release Type: Unrestricted

The Veterans Health Administration (VHA) Office of Emergency Management issued the initial COVID-19 Response Plan on March 23, 2020, and then an updated version on August 7, 2020. The National Center for Organization Development created a COVID-19 rapid response consultation process for VHA leaders in a supervisory role. The Organizational Health Council developed a team that coordinated with multiple VHA program offices to create a COVID-19 Employee Support Toolkit and other resources. Additionally, several program offices independently created and disseminated employee well-being resources specific to the COVID-19 pandemic, including National Center for Organization Development, Patient Centered Care & Cultural Transformation, Chaplain Service, and the Office of Mental Health and Suicide Prevention.

The VA Office of Inspector General (OIG) identified a generally diminishing awareness of employee emotional well-being supports in relation to organizational hierarchy, low utilization of support resources by leadership and frontline employees, as well as employee perception of inadequate support and responsiveness from leadership.

The OIG conducted a review to assess how the VHA addressed the emotional well-being of employees during the COVID-19 pandemic. The OIG also conducted an overview of VHA programs, including what specialized programs were developed and deployed in response to the unique psychological challenges created by the COVID-19 pandemic for VHA’s staff. The OIG interviewed VA and VHA leaders in multiple offices. The OIG developed and deployed a survey about VHA guidance regarding employees’ emotional well-being during the pandemic, available resources, monitoring of available support programs, and employee engagement with available support programs.

The OIG made one recommendation to the Under Secretary for Health related to increasing leadership and staff awareness of COVID-19 emotional well-being resources for VHA employees and awareness of resources about potential risks and signs of burnout.