When not pleading poverty, the Department of Veterans Affairs can be awfully careless with its money.The latest example: In 2011, the VA set $43.1 million aside to produce brochures informing veterans about their benefits, then forgot about it. The money went unspent for three years and now might be lost for good.
An internal audit released earlier this month said, “A breakdown of VA fiscal controls and a lack of oversight led to the parking of funds . .. and the failure to detect and properly use and manage these funds.”
That breakdown in fiscal controls seems to be endemic at the VA.
This week, in fact, the VA is telling Congress that it needs $2.6 billion in funds to cover its “unexpectedly” high health costs, and if it doesn’t get the money, it might have to start furloughing medical personnel.
House Veterans’ Affairs Committee chairman Jeff Miller, R-Fla., lashed out at the VA for this last-minute revelation: “I have come to expect a startling lack of transparency and accountability from VA over the last years, but failing to inform Congress of a multibillion-dollar funding deficit until this late in the fiscal year … is disturbing on an entirely different level.”
It’s far worse than that. Even those with short memories will recall that just last summer, Congress pumped an additional $16.3 billion into the VA after news broke of chronic and sometimes deadly treatment delays. Those delays, by the way, have gotten only worse since that scandal broke.
Meanwhile, the VA has so far blown $1.7 billion on a partially built hospital that was supposed to cost only $328 million.
And despite the VA’s pleas of being underfunded, consider this: the amount of money that the VA spends per veteran has exploded in recent years. Spending per veteran in 2014 was approximately $6,800 — that’s up 84% since President Obama took office and 282% since 2000.
Health spending per VA patient has exploded as well — climbing more than three times as fast as the number of patients using the VA’s health services.
The VA is the only Cabinet-level agency in the federal government that is entirely devoted to helping one specific population in the U.S. The fact that it can be so irresponsible, wasteful and cavalier in this mission is a disgrace.
But it’s also an indictment of claims that the federal government is better suited for helping people than the private sector.
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