Recently, the RAND Corporation released three reports regarding the Veterans Health Administration (VHA). These reports were previously submitted to the VA and House and Senate Veterans Affairs Committees as mandated by the Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability Act of 2014 (Public Law 113-146). The summary of all three reports can be found at RAND Reports – Summary.
The report that may have the most impact long-term is entitled “Current and Projected Characteristics and Unique Health Care Needs of the Patient Population Served by the Department of Veterans Affairs.” Essentially, RAND was using predictive analytics to assess the short and long-term demography of the veteran population likely to use VHA services in the future. RAND predicted that the overall population of veterans using the VHA to increase through 2019 and then slowly level off. Between 2014 and 2024, however, RAND predicts the total number of veterans using the VHA will decrease by 19 percent. Copy of that report can be found at RAND Report Veteran Population.
The algorithms within the RAND report are, frankly, light years beyond my cognitive capabilities. However, I personally suspect that a larger percentage of the OEF/OIF veterans will be using the VHA as their exclusive health care provider than expected given the rising costs of private health insurance, eligibility requirements for OEF/OIF veterans, and overall improvement within the VHA system. Further, as the DoD downsizes in the upcoming years many of those service members will be ineligible for TRICARE and will likely look to the VHA given the increasing awareness of Title 38 benefits.
The impact of predictive analytics on federal agency planning and operations can not be understated. Consider the burdens on the Social Security Administration in 2009-10 after the unexpected housing market crash and recession of 2008 or the issues within the DoD regarding force levels after 9/11. Given that Congress and the VA will use such studies to allocate resources and personal both long and short-term, even slight deviations in the veteran population metrics can have dramatic effects on quality and availability of healthcare.