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Another problem for veterans: VA can't get medical records from DOD

AP Photo/Rick Scuteri

The Department of Veterans Affairs' Office of Inspector General has released a new report saying the VA is having major problems getting medical records from the Department of Defense.

The VA itself has been shown to be a broken agency filled with systemic problems related to delays in getting veterans health care, and attempts to cover up those delays. But the VA's OIG report indicated at the Defense Department may be contributing to the VA's inability to deliver care promptly.

The Department of Veterans Affairs, led by Robert McDonald, has more than its share of problems delivering health care to veterans. But a new report says the Defense Department has also been slow in delivering service treatment records of new veterans to the VA. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

The OIG based its assessment on a study of 7,278 requests that the VA's Veterans Benefits Administration made to the Defense Department for service treatment records. Those requests were made between January 1 and June 3 of 2014.

"Of those, DoD only completed 2,111 requests (29 percent) and 5,167 requests (71 percent) were pending," the OIG said. Of the ones that were transmitted, just 18 percent were received by the VA within 45 calendar days from when the veteran in question left the military.

The OIG report said Defense appears to be wrestling with a new system that should allow it to send electronic service records to the VA. It said delays at Defense occurred because "DoD reported experiencing challenges and delays implementing the process of transmitting electronic STRs to VBA."

But while problems clearly exist at the Defense Department, the OIG indicated that another problem is a basic miscommunication between VA and Defense — the VA is still working with paper service records, while Defense is trying to send electronic records.

"Although in January 2014 DoD stopped sending paper STRs to VBA, this new initiative is not expected to significantly help VBA in the near term," it said. "VBA's processes will continue to involve requesting and scanning paper STRs…"

The report also found that some of the delays rest within the VA's regional offices. Some of these delays, it said, were caused by the VA trying to eliminate the disability claims backlog.

The OIG recommended several steps that VA should take, including ensuring its regional offices more quickly process requests for medical service records. But it made no recommendations about how Defense could speed up the process.

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