GAO: VHA Fails to Evaluate, Respond to Many Report Recommendations

VISN Realignment Lacks Oversight

By Sandra Basu

WASHINGTON—A major realignment of VISN boundaries has been occurring with “little monitoring” from VHA’s central office, according to a recent Government Accountability Office (GAO) report.

“Without adequate monitoring, including a plan for evaluation, VHA cannot be certain it is effectively implementing the ongoing VISN realignment,” the report found.

Under VHA’s realignment,  the number of VISNs will decrease from 21 to 18. VHA anticipates this process will be completed by the end of fiscal year 2018, according to GAO.

“VHA officials on the task force implementing the realignment told GAO they thought VISNs could implement the realignment independently without the need for close monitoring,” according to the report. “VHA also did not provide guidance to address VISN and VAMC challenges that could have been anticipated, including challenges with services and budgets, double-encumbered positions (two officials in the same position in merging VISNs), and information technology.”

 In addition, GAO said that ,at the time of its review, VHA did not have plans to evaluate the realignment and said that, if it did conduct a review, the optimal time would be after the realignment is mostly complete.

GAO called this “inconsistent with federal internal control standards for monitoring.”

“Without adequate monitoring, including a plan for evaluation, VHA cannot be certain it is effectively implementing the ongoing VISN realignment,” the agency explained.

GAO stated that “an evaluation may be useful to correct any identified implementation deficiencies.”

 “It can also help inform future organizational structure changes by offering VHA the opportunity to anticipate challenges and proactively provide guidance to address them,” it said.

 Department of Veterans' Affairs (VA) Veterans Health Administration (VHA) Regional Map, Post-Realignment

Department of Veterans’ Affairs (VA) Veterans Health Administration (VHA) Regional Map, Post-Realignment

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Comments (3)

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  1. MS Lewis says:

    The realignment was to have been completed by end of FY2016. However, some VISN’s are being very reluctant to realign because it appears their ability to do whatever they want relative to hiring, etc. will ultimately mean transparency, more oversight and structure to follow OPM & other guidelines. Such is the case with current VISN 16, Houston, they seem to do what they want. They recruit friends, friends of friends, etc before vacancies are publicly announced and place individuals in positions that they either have not applied for, really do not qualify for and turn their nose up on people who do qualify and may be considered by some to be “overly” qualified. It is hopeful realignment will apply to all VISNs, not just some and that there will be appropriate & adequate oversight; different from the “fox watching over the hen house”.

  2. J Kelly says:

    Another case regarding VISN 16 is in the Gulf Coast VA Healthcare System. They do not want the Florida clinics to go into VISN 8. Employees would love to as VISN 16 is not as progressive.

  3. G Brzuska says:

    Agree with above comments, VISN 16 appears to be doing what it wants. Realignment was not only designed to reduce to 18 VISNs, it was suppose to be more aligned along state lines. For example, the panhandle of Florida was suppose to be brought into the new VISN 8 which included the state of FL and territory of PR only. Rational for this was that FL is the 3rd largest populated state. The purpose of aligning more along state line was to concentrate authority and make it more responsible to the veterans. Currently, the panhandle of FL is controlled by a leadership in Biloxi, MS three states away who do not seem to have the best interest of FL veterans. Agree someone needs to take control of this mess and clean it up or this may develop into another VA scandal.

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