Veterans AffairsAccessibility of Outpatient Care at VA Medical Centers Gao ID: T-HRD-93-29 July 21, 1993
Veterans' access to outpatient care at Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) medical centers varies widely. The reasons are twofold: first, medical centers throughout the country interpret VA outpatient eligibility criteria differently; and second, medical centers' rationing decisions vary, including whether to ration and what rationing method to use. This means that veterans with similar medical conditions or income status may receive outpatient care at some medical centers but not at others. As a result, veterans are often confused or frustrated when turned away by VA centers without receiving needed medical care. GAO recommends that VA develop alternative eligibility criteria that produce more predictable eligibility decisions or provide better guidance to centers so that doctors make more consistent eligibility determinations. In addition, Congress may want to direct VA to modify its system for allocating resources to medical centers so that veterans with similar medical or economic status have more consistent access to outpatient care.