VA Health Care

Allocation Changes Would Better Align Resources with Workload Gao ID: GAO-02-338 February 28, 2002

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) spent $21 billion in fiscal year 2001 to treat 3.8 million veterans--most of whom had service-connected disabilities or low incomes. Since 1997, VA has used the Veterans Equitable Resource Allocation (VERA) system to allocate most of its medical care appropriation. GAO found that VERA has had a substantial impact on network resource allocations and workloads. First, VERA shifted $921 million from networks located primarily in the northeast and midwest to networks located in the south and west in fiscal year 2001. In addition, VERA, along with other VA initiatives, has provided an incentive for networks to serve more veterans. VERA's overall design is a reasonable approach to allocate resources commensurate with workloads. It provides a predetermined dollar amount per veteran served to each of VA's 22 health care networks. This amount varies depending upon the health care needs of the veteran served and local cost differences. This approach is designed to allocate resources commensurate with each network's workload in terms of veterans served and their health care needs. GAO identified weaknesses in VERA's implementation. First, VERA excludes about one fifth of VA's workload in determining each network's allocation. Second, VERA does not account well for cost differences among networks resulting from variation in their patients' health care needs. Third, the process for providing supplemental resources to networks through VA's National Reserve Fund has not been used to analyze how the need for such resources is caused by potential problems in VERA's allocation, network inefficiency, or other factors.


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