Objectives: The authors describe the role the Veterans Affairs (VA) medical system plays as a provider of clinic and hospital services by examining utilization levels and users' characteristics.
Methods: The Veterans Affairs hospital discharge database, the Veterans Affairs outpatient clinic files, and the veteran population files were used to estimate the number of persons using the Veterans Affairs medical care system in 1994 and the intensity of their clinic and hospital use. Demographic and clinical characteristics of users were tabulated.
Results: In 1994, 2.7 million veterans, 10.3% of all US veterans, and approximately 23% of veterans who would have met the statutory eligibility requirements for Veterans Affairs care, used the hospital and/or clinic components of the Veterans Affairs medical system. Sixty-three percent of the system's users were younger than age 65, and 10.5% were women. These 2.7 million veterans had 901,665 Veterans Affairs hospital stays, 15.5 million bed-days, and 31.2 million outpatient visits in fiscal year 1994. The average number of hospitalizations per hospital user was 1.71; the average number of visits per clinic user was 11.7. Medical, surgical, and psychiatric diagnosis-related groups (DRGs) accounted for 56%, 21%, and 23%, respectively, of hospitalizations, but psychiatric diagnosis-related groups accounted for 43% of all inpatient days. Principal medicine clinic visits and psychiatry clinic visits accounted for 21% and 16% of Veterans Affairs ambulatory care.
Conclusions: Because the patient population served by the Veterans Affairs system is skewed in a number of ways, its contribution as a provider of health services in the United States varies by gender, age, socioeconomic status, and diagnosis.