VA Mental Health: Clearer Guidance on Access Policies and Wait-Time Data Needed
GOVERNMENT ACCOUNTABILITY OFFICE WASHINGTON DC
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Why GAO Did This Study. Between 2005 and 2013, the number of veterans receiving mental health care from VHA increased 63 percent, outpacing overall growth in veterans receiving any VHA health care. In fiscal year 2014, VHA spent more than 3.9 billion providing outpatient specialty mental health care mental health care to more than 1.5 million veterans. GAO was asked to examine VHA s efforts to provide timely access to mental health care for veterans. This report examines, among other things, 1 veterans access to timely mental health care, and 2 VHA s related oversight. GAO conducted site visits to five VAMCs selected to provide variation in factors such as location and mental health care utilization rates reviewed a randomly selected, nongeneralizable sample of 100 medical records 20 from each of the five selected VAMCs for veterans new to mental health care who received treatment between July 1, 2014, and September 30, 2014 and interviewed VHA and VAMC officials on VHA s measures and oversight of access to mental health care. GAO evaluated VHA s oversight of access to mental health care against relevant federal standards for internal control. What GAO Recommends. GAO recommends that VHA issue clarifying guidance on 1 access policies 2 definitions used to calculate wait times and 3 how openaccess appointments are to be managed. VHA concurred with GAO s recommendations but disagreed with certain of its findings, for example, GAO s calculation of overall wait-times. GAO maintains its findings, as discussed in the report, are valid.
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