Too many Army, Navy and Air Force hospitals are still not properly screening or verifying the credentials of their physicians, despite toughened Defense Department orders to check out their backgrounds.

According to a recent General Accounting Office study, military supervisors continue to approve doctors for surgical and other medical appointments without properly reviewing their backgrounds.Audits conducted by individual branches and the Defense Department inspector general four years ago found that hundreds of the 13,700 doctors in the military had been approved for practice with only cursory reviews.

The study released this week found that 90 percent of military doctors have obtained state medical licenses, but other required supporting evidence, such as verifications of medical school and postgraduate training, frequently were not found in the doctors' files.

Analyses of physicians' files by service showed that 65 percent of the medical school diplomas in the Air Force, 64 percent in the Army, and 37 percent in the Navy were not authenticated. In such circumstances, what's to prevent an imposter or improperly trained person from practicing medicine?

The GAO study concluded that poor medicine does not necessarily result from incomplete documentation, but it correctly noted that proper documentation "offers much more assurance that only qualified physicians practice medicine."