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GAO Report Finds Gaps in VA Mental Health Care

October 3, 2006

This past week the Government Accountability Office (GAO) issued a report that faults the Department of Veterans’ Affairs for failing to fully spend a promised $300 million since 2005 to fill gaps in mental illness treatment for veterans and returning troops.  The GAO is an investigative arm of Congress.  The report was issued as part of a House Veterans’ Affairs Committee hearing on September 28. 

The GAO found that the funds were supposed to have been used to improve awareness of mental illness treatment services in the VA and provide increased access troops returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as individuals with serious mental illness served by the VA.  The GAO found that the agency underspent the funding provided by Congress and directed it toward other priorities. 

Specifically, the GAO found that the VA spent only $53 million of the $100 million it planned to use in FY 2005 on gaps in care identified the agency strategic plan for mental health.  Instead, the VA sent as much as $35 million to a VA general fund where it could be spent on a variety of programs – or perhaps never expended.  Further, the GAO investigators found that the VA did not inform its hospital administrators and VISN directors that the $35 million was available. 

Likewise, hospital administrators and VISN officials were unaware that any specific allocation was to be used for the VA mental health strategic plan.  Meanwhile, at least $12 million of the funding was unspent.  Similarly, the GAO found that for FY 2006 –which ended October 1 -- $42 million of the $200 million made available by Congress for the strategic plan remains unspent.

The full GAO report can be viewed at: (PDF, opens in a new browser window)

Testimony and statements from the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee hearing can be viewed at: