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DOD and VA: Systematic Data Sharing Would Help Expedite Servicemembers' Transition to VA Services


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Since the onset of Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) and Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF), the Department of Defense (DOD) reported that more than 12,000 servicemembers have been injured in combat. While many return to active duty, others with more serious injuries are likely to be discharged from the military. To ensure the continuity of medical care and access to all other Department of Veterans Affairs' (VA) benefits, such as vocational rehabilitation, VA formed its Seamless Transition Task Force. In January 2005, GAO reported that VA had given high priority to OEF/OIF servicemembers, but faced challenges in identifying, locating, and following up with seriously injured servicemembers. GAO recommended that VA and DOD reach an agreement for VA to obtain systematic data from DOD, and the departments concurred. However, DOD raised privacy concerns. GAO was asked to review VA's efforts to expedite vocational rehabilitation services to seriously injured servicemembers and to determine the status of an agreement between DOD and VA to share health data. GAO relied on its prior work; interviewed VA and DOD officials; and reviewed the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) and the HIPAA Privacy Rule, which govern the sharing of individually identifiable health data.



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