GAO: Veterans Affairs Sustained Leadership Attention Needed to Address Long-Standing Workforce Problems

Why GAO Did This Study

“VA operates one of the largest health care delivery systems in the nation and provides billions of dollars in benefits and services to veterans and their families. However, VA faces serious and long-standing problems with management challenges and veterans’ access to health care and disability benefits. These issues contributed to GAO’s decision to list several areas involving VA on GAO’s High-Risk List, including managing acquisitions, managing risk and improving veterans’ health care, and improving and modernizing VA’s disability programs.This testimony discusses (1) human capital challenges facing VA and its components, (2) GAO recommendations addressing some of those challenges, and (3) how those challenges are related to a broader set of government-wide human capital problems.”

What GAO Found

“Serious human capital shortfalls are undermining the Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) ability to provide veterans with quality and timely services. Over the past two decades, GAO has identified major challenges with VA human capital practices. For example, in March 2019, GAO found large staffing shortages, including physicians and registered nurses, at the Veterans Health Administration’s (VHA) 172 medical centers. In December 2016, GAO found that high attrition, increased workload, and burnout among VHA’s human resources (HR) staff, along with ineffective internal controls to support its HR operations, have impeded VHA’s ability to serve the nation’s veterans…”

“Some of the challenges facing VA are part of a larger set of human capital issues affecting government as a whole. Although Congress, the Office of Personnel Management, and individual agencies have made improvements in recent years, human capital management in general remains a high-risk area because of mission-critical skills gaps within the federal workforce. Structural issues impede the ability of agencies to recruit, retain, and develop workers, including outmoded position classification and pay systems, ineffective recruiting and hiring processes, and challenges in dealing with poor performers.”

What GAO Recommends

“GAO has designated 40 of its prior recommendations to VA as priorities for implementation. Twelve of these priority recommendations are aimed at strengthening VA’s human capital management efforts. To date, VA has implemented six of these priority recommendations, but needs to take additional action on the other six. GAO will continue to monitor VA’s progress in implementing these recommendations.” Read the full 15-page report here.

Source: Veterans Affairs Sustained Leadership Attention Needed to Address Long-Standing Workforce Problems – September 18, 2019. GAO.

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