Poor IT compatibility between VA, DOD hinders care for wounded soldiers

The departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs (VA) are falling short on efforts to provide care to injured combat personnel because their IT systems lack compatibility, according to a new report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO).

In 2007, following reports of poor case management for outpatients at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, the Departments of Defense and VA jointly developed the Federal Recovery Coordination Program (FRCP) to coordinate clinical and nonclinical services needed by severely wounded, ill, and injured service members and veterans.

However, GAO said it was unclear whether all those who could benefit from the FRCP's care coordination services were being identified and enrolled in the program. Because neither the Defense Department nor VA medical and benefits information systems classify service members and veterans as "severely wounded, ill, and injured," the case coordinators cannot readily identify potential enrollees using existing data sources.

Instead, the VA has been relying on referrals from military hospitals and other programs to identify eligible individuals, and the case coordinators figure out who should be enrolled, the report says.

The bottom line is that the VA and the Pentagon "need to do a better job of working together to determine clear criteria for this program so that we aren't leaving veterans to fend for themselves," Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., who chairs the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, told USA Today.

GAO offered several recommendations to address the shortcomings. VA officials concurred with the findings and said it has been working to resolved those issue. The Department of Defense said a committee has been formed to improve coordination.

For more details:

- see the GAO report (pdf.) 
- read the USA Today article

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