DOD, VA Have Not Fulfilled Promises To Improve Military Health Care

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Military Health Care

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The Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs have not fulfilled promises to address problems with health care for veterans at Walter Reed Army Medical Centerand other military hospitals because of staff shortages and uncertaintyabout the most effective measures to take to improve care for woundedtroops, according to a preliminary report released on Wednesday by the Government Accountability Office, the Washington Postreports. According to the report, Army "warrior transition units" --units assembled at 32 military hospitals nationwide to help woundedtroops that include teams of physicians, case managers and squadleaders -- lack adequate nurses and social workers, and more than halfof the units had staff vacancy rates of more than 50% by mid-September.

Thereport also found proposals to address problems with the militarydisability evaluation system and to provide "recovery coordinators"remain behind schedule (Vogel, Washington Post, 9/27).The report said, "Delayed decisions, confusing policies and theperception that DOD and VA disability ratings result in inequitableoutcomes have eroded the credibility of the system. ... It isimperative that DOD and VA take prompt steps to address fundamentalsystem weaknesses." According to the report, "Many challenges remain,and critical questions remain unanswered," adding, "Success willultimately depend on sustained attention, systematic oversight by DODand VA, and sufficient resources."

In addition, the report foundthat 46% of troops who return from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan andqualify for personalized medical care do not receive such treatmentbecause of staff shortages. DOD and VA also have not developed acomprehensive system for medical records for veterans, the report found(Yen, AP/Lincoln Journal Star, 9/26).

Reprinted with permission from kaisernetwork.org. Youcan view the entire Kaiser DailyHealth Policy Report, search the archives, and sign up for email deliveryat kaisernetwork.org/email. The Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report is published for kaisernetwork.org, afree service of The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.

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