VA Health Care: VA Uses Medical Injury Tort Claims Data to Assess Veterans' Care, but Should Take Action to Ensure That These Data Are Complete

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Correspondence issued by the Government Accountability Office with an abstract that begins "The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) operates one of the largest health care delivery systems in the nation--providing health care services to more than 5 million veterans each year in over 1,000 facilities. These health care services are delivered by physicians, nurses, and other types of practitioners and range from routine examinations to complex surgical procedures. As in any health care setting, veterans receiving health care services at VA facilities may be at risk of incurring medical injury as a result of substandard care. Recent incidents have heightened ... continued below

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United States. Government Accountability Office. October 28, 2011.

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Correspondence issued by the Government Accountability Office with an abstract that begins "The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) operates one of the largest health care delivery systems in the nation--providing health care services to more than 5 million veterans each year in over 1,000 facilities. These health care services are delivered by physicians, nurses, and other types of practitioners and range from routine examinations to complex surgical procedures. As in any health care setting, veterans receiving health care services at VA facilities may be at risk of incurring medical injury as a result of substandard care. Recent incidents have heightened concern about the quality of care provided to veterans by VA facilities. For example, in 2010 we reported that one VA facility discovered in 2009 that medical equipment had been improperly cleaned, thus posing safety risks to 2,526 veterans. In the event that an injury occurs as a result of care rendered by a VA practitioner, a veteran alleging medical malpractice may seek compensation by filing a tort claim with one of VA's 22 regional counsel offices. The offices, which operate under VA's Office of General Counsel (OGC), are responsible for initially investigating and, to the extent possible, resolving the tort claims through administrative review. After undergoing administrative review, claims may proceed to litigation in federal court, in which the Department of Justice (DOJ) defends the United States. During either VA's administrative review or litigation, the government may resolve tort claims by making payments to veterans. When such payments are made to veterans, VA's Office of Medical-Legal Affairs (OMLA) uses medical information from these paid tort claims, as well as related medical records and other relevant information, to assess the quality of care provided to veterans. In 1995, we reported that data on tort claims provided opportunities for VA to identify concerns with individual providers and decrease the risk of future tort claims. Specifically, we recommended that VA use available data on tort claims to help identify problem-prone areas in VA's delivery of care and initiate programs that could help prevent the types of incidents that generate tort claims for medical injuries. VA generally concurred with our 1995 recommendation and implemented a process to analyze and use available tort claims data to assess the quality of veterans' care. In light of recent concerns about the quality of veterans' care provided in some VA facilities, Congress asked us to examine the resolution of tort claims filed against VA in the context of VA's efforts to improve the quality of veterans' care at its facilities. In this report, we (1) describe the number of tort claims that were resolved through VA's administrative review and through litigation from fiscal years 2005 through 2010 and (2) examine how OMLA uses paid tort claims data to assess the quality of veterans' care."

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Government Accountability Office Reports

The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) is an independent, nonpartisan agency that works for the U.S. Congress investigating how the federal government spends taxpayers' money. Its goal is to increase accountability and improve the performance of the federal government. The Government Accountability Office Reports Collection consists of over 13,000 documents on a variety of topics ranging from fiscal issues to international affairs.

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  • October 28, 2011

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  • June 12, 2014, 7:50 p.m.

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United States. Government Accountability Office. VA Health Care: VA Uses Medical Injury Tort Claims Data to Assess Veterans' Care, but Should Take Action to Ensure That These Data Are Complete, text, October 28, 2011; Washington D.C.. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc301002/: accessed October 19, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.