The Number of Veterans That Use VA Health Care Services: A Fact Sheet

Source: Erin Bagalman, Congressional Research Service, CRS Report, R43579, June 3, 2014

It’s a simple question—how many veterans use services at the Veterans Health Administration (VHA)? It’s a question being asked a lot these days, and it is important, baseline information to know when changes are being contemplated to the way in which VA delivers health care to veterans. In the course of an investigation into allegations that veterans seeking health care services from the VHA experienced long delays in treatment, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Office of Inspector General (OIG) released an interim report that substantiated the delays. Final determinations by the OIG of the full scope and impact of the problems, including whether delays in treatment resulted in harm to or the death of any veterans, will not be available until the OIG completes its investigation and issues a final report. The issue of wait times for VA health care is not new (see CRS Insight IN10063, Wait Times for Veterans Health Not New). Approaches to providing timely access to care for veterans enrolled in VA health care have included the use of non-VA care reimbursed by the VA (see CRS Insight IN10074, Getting Health Care Outside the VA). The need to rely on non-VA care in some cases has raised questions about the VA’s capacity to provide services to the veteran population now and in the future. Knowing how many veterans there are is essential to answering those questions. …