The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has developed more than 1,400 recommendations for modernizing and realigning its health care infrastructure, but a new report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) is finding gaps in the data VA used to inform the recommendations.

According to the March 20 report, the VA developed the thousand-plus recommendations in response to the VA Mission Act of 2018 (MISSION Act), after conducting a system-wide assessment of its ability to provide health care services to veterans.

The report says that the VA reviewed specific data to ensure that the recommendations took four key considerations into account: meeting veterans’ evolving needs; adapting to innovations in health care delivery; addressing VA’s education, research, and support missions; and accounting for trends of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“In reviewing the department’s data supporting these considerations, GAO identified gaps in the comprehensiveness of the data used,” GAO says in the report. “For example, in determining veteran access to community care, VA reviewed data estimating whether non-VA providers had the capacity to serve veterans.”

“However, VA lacked data on appointment wait times, the total number of appointments, and their associated costs,” the report continues. “According to VA officials, VA intends to address data gaps as part of its ongoing planning for the next set of quadrennial market assessments expected in three years.”

Even so, GAO found that VA currently does not have any specific actions or time frames to address the data gaps. The government watchdog agency said by addressing these gaps and developing time frames, VA “can provide greater assurance” that its market assessment accounts for its four key considerations.

Additionally, the report found that VA established a leadership team for planning and the strategic prioritization of recommendations. However, the agency does not have a formal plan that describes the team’s structure and implementation strategy.

“Having such a plan would help ensure that VA has effective and efficient processes for using its recommendations and future market assessments to address the department’s infrastructure needs,” the report says.

GAO made three recommendations to the VA, including that it develop specific actions and time frames to address the data gaps, develop a formal plan that identifies the leadership team’s structure and implementation strategy, and finalize a communication approach to increase transparency with stakeholders.

The VA concurred with all three recommendations and detailed steps it would take to implement them.

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Grace Dille
Grace Dille
Grace Dille is a MeriTalk Senior Technology Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.