GAO: VA Health Care: Estimating Resources Needed to Provide Community Care

Why GAO Did This Study

“VA continues to focus on the use of community care to address challenges with veterans’ access to health care services at VA medical facilities. In fiscal year 2019, VA plans to consolidate the Veterans Choice Program and several other community care programs under a single new Veterans Community Care Program. GAO and others have previously reported on past challenges VA has faced regarding the reliability, transparency, and consistency of its budget estimates for health care.”

What GAO Found

“To help ensure that veterans are provided timely and accessible health care services, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) may purchase care from non-VA providers, known as community care. VA obligated $14.9 billion for community care in fiscal year 2018, an increase of $6.7 billion (about 82 percent) since fiscal year 2014. The number of veterans authorized to use community care increased from 1.3 million to 1.8 million during this period. By fiscal year 2021, VA estimated obligations to increase to $17.8 billion, and officials estimate at least 1.8 million veterans will continue to use this care…”

“VA’s actual obligations for community care for fiscal years 2017 and 2018 were $1.2 billion and $2.2 billion higher, respectively, than originally estimated. According to VA officials, this occurred for several reasons, including policy changes and increased costs for the Veterans Choice Program. To support higher obligations, VA requested and received additional funding for the Veterans Choice Program outside the annual appropriations process and used other funding sources, such as unobligated amounts from prior fiscal years.”

Read the full 55-page report here.

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