Report Summary

Title: Independent Review of VA’s Special Disabilities Capacity Report for Fiscal Year 2021
Report Number: 22-03217-59 Download
Issue Date: 3/7/2023
VA Office: Office of the Secretary
Veterans Health Administration (VHA)
Report Author: Office of Audits and Evaluations
Report Type: Review
Release Type: Unrestricted

VA must submit an annual report to Congress documenting its capacity to provide specialized treatment comparable to that available as of October 9, 1996, for veterans with spinal cord injuries and disorders, traumatic brain injury, blindness, prosthetics and sensory aids, or mental health issues. Congress legislated this requirement to ensure that the decentralization of the Veterans Health Administration’s field management structure in the late 1990s did not adversely affect VA’s ability to care for veterans with disabilities. Each year, the VA Office of Inspector General (OIG) is required to report to Congress on the accuracy of VA’s special disabilities capacity report. While the review found nothing that would lead the OIG to believe the information in the fiscal year (FY) 2021 capacity report was not fairly stated and accurate, it did identify some minor errors and data omissions that have persisted from the OIG’s FY 2020 review. For example, VA is unable to report mental health capacity data comparable to that from 1996 as required by law because of changes in how treatment outcomes of veterans with mental illness are defined and tracked. The capacity report also does not capture data on the services veterans receive through community care or changes in bed capacity at VA’s centers for spinal cord injuries and disorders. Congress would be better served by modernizing the reporting metrics to assess VA’s capacity to provide care for these veterans. The under secretary for health concurred with the OIG’s report.

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