VA Health Care

Veterans' Efforts to Obtain Outpatient Care From Alternative Sources Gao ID: HRD-93-123 July 14, 1993

During visits to six medical centers, GAO identified 198 veterans who had applied for Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) medical care during the first six months of fiscal year 1992 and were turned away without receiving all needed care. Each of these veterans was turned away for treatment of nonemergency conditions that VA staff considered to be unrelated to military service. GAO found that 168 of these 198 veterans later obtained the care initially sought, such as diagnostic evaluations or medical treatment, mostly from non-VA medical providers. The remaining 30 veterans did not receive further medical care, mainly because they could not afford it.

GAO found that: (1) of the 198 veterans who were turned away from VA medical centers, 149 obtained medical care from other sources; (2) 76 percent of the veterans that received care from alternative sources had health insurance; (3) the veterans' medical needs included additional diagnostic evaluation, treatment for diagnosed conditions, and medication for chronic conditions; (4) some of the veterans who returned to VA medical centers received care because of differing interpretations of eligibility criteria, the centers' resources improved, or the veterans' conditions deteriorated to the point that they became eligible for outpatient care; (5) some veterans were accepted by a medical center after being turned away from a different medical center; (6) 30 of the veterans surveyed did not obtain medical care after being turned away by a VA medical center due to financial and other reasons; and (7) about 40 percent of the veterans who did not seek further medical care had health insurance.

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