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GAO Report Identifies Lapses in Military Medical Care Despite Reforms

On October 1, 2013, the Defense Health Administration (DFA) began operations. Tasked with overseeing aggregated medical functions of the various service branches, its current responsibilities include all medical facilities, medical training and education, planning, and more.

One important goal was saving money. That, it has done, earning a Meritorious Unit Award for, in part, saving the Department of Defense (DoD) $236 million in its first year.

Since 2014, Congress and DoD have taken steps intended to strengthen patient safety within the military health system via the DHA. This included "ensuring individual providers are qualified and competent to deliver safe, high quality care to patients," and, "verifying providers' qualifications before hiring them, as well as reviewing any concerns that may arise about a provider as a result of routine performance monitoring or patient safety events."

A Government Accountability Office (GAO) report released March 30, 2022 says the DHA hasn't been fulfilling its promise. The GAO examined 4 facilities and found that facilities did not verify all medical licenses before providers treated patients. You read that right: Not all medical licenses were verified before those individual healthcare providers began treating patients. Also, in most cases, the DHA facilities failed to review events which harmed (or could have harmed) patients in the required timeframe.

While these failures do not guarantee that harm will come to their patients, it doesn't look good. Part of the problem is that, historically, our active duty troops could not sue military healthcare providers for malpractice.

While the 2019 passage of the Richard Stayskal Act allowed for administrative claims against the service branches, whether those claims are granted and any money is awarded is left up to those service branches. This GAO report suggests that DoD is not doing well governing itself.


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