And here we go once again: Review of practices by the Veterans Administration, wide levels of non-compliance, indicative of systemic waste, as well as, gross and wasteful management…and, what happens? Of course, recommendations as to how to improve. No one is held culpable. No one’s pay gets reduced, no punitive action is undertaken. Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of veterans wait far too long for their claims to be processed, fighting tooth and nail for a comparative pittance while administrators toss millions out the proverbial window glibly and politicians grand-stand yet never do the one thing that would effectuate change: hand down criminal penalties where due or terminating the people who are responsible for the never-ending debacle that trails around the VA year after year after year. When there’s no accountability there’s no impetus for reform. This ain’t rocket science, people.
We conducted this review to determine whether VA complied with the requirements of the Improper Payments Elimination and Recovery Act (IPERA) for fiscal year (FY) 2015. VA reported improper payment estimates totaling approximately $5 billion in its FY 2015 Agency Financial Report (AFR), compared with $1.6 billion for FY 2014, primarily because of improvements in estimating improper payments for four programs. In both years, VA reported improper payment data based on the previous fiscal year activity. VA did not fully comply with IPERA. VA met four of six IPERA requirements for FY 2015 by publishing the AFR; performing risk assessments; publishing improper payment estimates; and providing information on corrective action plans. VA did not comply with two of six IPERA requirements by not maintaining a gross improper payment rate of less than 10 percent and meeting reduction targets for all programs published in the AFR. Two programs exceeded the 10 percent threshold: VA Community Care and Purchased Long Term Care Support and Services. Eight programs did not meet reduction targets: Compensation; Education Chapter 1606; Education Chapter 1607; VA Community Care; Purchased Long Term Services and Support; Beneficiary Travel; Supplies and Materials; and Disaster Relief Act—Hurricane Sandy. In addition, the Veterans Health Administration underestimated improper payments for one program and did not achieve the expected level of accuracy for two others. Likewise, the Veterans Benefits Administration expended considerable effort to collect improper payments because of a program design issue with drill pay, and it needs to develop a plan and seek the assistance of Office of Management and Budget to coordinate future resolution. We recommended that the Under Secretary for Health take steps to reduce improper payment rates, achieve reduction targets, and improve improper payment estimates. We recommended that the Acting Under Secretary for Benefits take steps to achieve reduction targets and address the issue of prohibited concurrent payments of certain program benefits and military reserve pay. We recommended that the Principal Executive Director Office of Acquisition, Logistics, and Construction take steps to achieve the reduction target for one program. VA management concurred with our recommendations, and we will follow up on corrective actions in the FY 2016 review.