DoD did not consistently transfer timely and complete STRs to the VA. Our results, by Military Department, were as follows:
- Army – of 96,224 STRs transferred to the VA from January to December 2013, 74,470 (77 percent) were not timely (transferred within 45 business days) and 26,901 (28 percent) were not complete.
- Air Force – of 45,912 STRs transferred to the VA from January to December 2013, 16,187 (35 percent) were not timely and 5,144 (11 percent) were not complete.
- Navy – the Navy and Marine Corps did not maintain sufficient data to determine results from January to December 2013. However, data provided for July and August 2013 indicated that of the 3,217 STRs transferred to the VA, 1,479 (46 percent) were not timely. In addition, the Navy did not maintain the data necessary to determine whether the STRs were complete. This occurred because DoD did not provide the Military Departments with clear or comprehensive guidance concerning the STR transfer process, to include the DoD-VA agreed upon procedure for certifying STR completeness. In addition, the Army Reserve and National Guard and the Navy had inefficient procedures in place for transferring STRs. DoD’s failure to consistently make timely and complete STRs available to the VA likely contributed to delays in processing veterans’ benefit claims.
We recommend that the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, in coordination with the Director, Defense Health Agency, revise DoD Instruction 6040.45, “Service Treatment Record (STR) and Non-Service Treatment Record (NSTR) Life Cycle Management,” October 28, 2010, to update the process for certifying STRs as complete and require the Military Departments to perform annual reviews of STRs with service members to achieve STR completeness. We also recommend that the Commander, U.S. Army Medical Command and the Commander, U.S. Navy Bureau of Medicine and Surgery identify and resolve inefficiencies in the STR transfer process that delay the timely processing of STRs for active duty and Reserve Component personnel.
Management Comments and Our Response
Management comments partially addressed the recommendations. The Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness agreed stating that a draft DoD Instruction has been updated to incorporate the recommendations and that it will begin coordination in August 2014. The Chief of Staff for the Department of the Army Office of the Surgeon General agreed stating that the Army has published STR timeliness requirements and is providing training to Reserve Component personnel. However, the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness did not provide actions to address the requirement for annual STR reviews and the Commander, U.S. Navy Bureau of Medicine and Surgery, did not provide management comments. Therefore, we request that the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness and the Commander, U.S. Navy Bureau of Medicine and Surgery, provide comments by August 29, 2014.
This report is a result of Project No. D2014-D000RF-0054.000.