Need to Consider VA's Role in Strengthening Federal Preparedness
GAO-02-145T: Published: Oct 15, 2001. Publicly Released: Oct 15, 2001.
In the event of a domestic terrorist attack or other major disasters, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is to provide backup medical resources to the military health system and local communities. VA now assists other federal agencies that have lead responsibility for responding to disasters, including terrorism. Its areas of responsibility include disaster simulation exercises and maintaining medical stockpiles. VA's efforts in these areas have enhanced national emergency preparedness by improving medical response procedures and by strengthening the security of federal pharmaceutical stockpiles to ensure rapid response to local authorities. VA also has resources that could play a role in future federal homeland security efforts. Its assets include the bricks, mortar, and human capital components of its health care system; graduate medical education programs; and expertise involving emergency backup and support activities. In managing large-scale medical emergencies arising from terrorist attacks, VA's emergency response capabilities have strengths and weaknesses. Determining how VA can best contribute to homeland security is especially timely given the extraordinary level of federal activity underway to manage large-scale disasters.