VA Reports Performance Improvements For 2003
News & Links

America's Veterans


WASHINGTON (December 10, 2003) - The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is delivering high quality health care, benefits and memorial services to the nation's veterans, according to VA's FY 2003 Annual Performance and Accountability Report submitted today to the President and the Congress.

"We have fulfilled our responsibility to provide veterans with the best in benefits and health care by making our department a model of excellence," said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Anthony J. Principi. "We are honored to care for the health, welfare and dignity of veterans in recognition of their service to our nation."

The report documents VA's progress during fiscal year 2003 towards making sure that America's veterans and their families receive timely, compassionate, high-quality care and benefits.

VA achieved an "unqualified clean audit opinion" on its financial statements for the fifth consecutive year. This is the best report an agency can receive from an independent auditor.

According to the report, the number of veterans using VA's health care system has risen dramatically in recent years, increasing from 2.9 million in 1995 to 5 million in 2003. To ensure availability of care for the core veteran population, a new regulation giving priority access for severely disabled veterans was implemented for those veterans with service-connected disabilities rated 50 percent or greater.

VA continues to receive high satisfaction ratings among its patients with scores of 73 percent for inpatients and 74 percent for outpatients, both numbers up from FY 2002.

In memorial affairs, VA maintained high levels of customer satisfaction with burial services. In a satisfaction survey, 97 percent of respondents rated the appearance of VA's national cemeteries as "excellent."

VA significantly reduced its backlog of disability claims from a high of 432,000 claims to 254,000 at the end of 2003. In addition, the percentage of claims more than six months old was reduced from 35 percent to 19 percent.

In 2003, VA met four of the five key performance goals relating to the smooth transition of veterans from active military service to civilian life. On the subject of having VA medical centers provide electronic access to health information transmitted by the Department of Defense on separated service members, VA surpassed its goal of 50 percent by achieving 100 percent.

The Federal Health Information Exchange and Government Computerized Patient Record, a joint program with the Department of Defense, is fully installed and functioning at all sites and will further ease the transition of veterans from active service to civilian life.

"As America's troops return from liberating Iraq, we are reminded once again of the incredible sacrifices our servicemen and women make in defense of freedom," said Principi. "I will ensure they continue to receive exceptional service and the respect they have earned."

VA's FY 2003 Annual Performance and Accountability Report can be found on the Internet at