On April 26, the Government Accountability Office released an alarming report titled VA and IHS: Further Action Needed to Collaborate on Providing Health Care to Native American Vets.
According to the report, Native vets lack adaquate health care services despite a memorandum of understanding between Veterans Affairs and the Indian Health Service to ensure that these services are provided and accessible. The MOU was originally signed by the two federal agencies in 2003, then revised in 2010. As part of the MOU, the VA and IHS agreed to share staff, purchasing contacts, standardized electronic health records and a joint reimbursement process–all efforts to make quality health care to Native vets more available and easier to access, especially for those living in rural or remote areas.
Two of the main goals of the partnership are to increase access to and improve quality of health care services and to establish partnerships and sharing agreements among the agencies and the tribes. But the report indicates that the agencies have failed to put in place metrics to monitor effectiveness or to follow through on targets of making sure Native vets' needs are met.
Coordination between VA and IHS is essential to ensuring that high-quality health care is provided to dually eligible Native American veterans.
The GAO recommends that the agencies take steps to improve the performance metrics used to assess MOU implementation and to develop better processes to consult with tribes. VA and the Department of Health and Human Services (within which is the Indian Health Service) agreed with these recommendations.
Read the full report by clicking here.