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VA OIG — Administrative Investigation, Prohibited Personnel Practice and Preferential Treatment, National Cemetery Administration, VA Central Office

July 22, 2014 Comments off

Administrative Investigation, Prohibited Personnel Practice and Preferential Treatment, National Cemetery Administration, VA Central Office (PDF)
Source: U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Office of Inspector General

The former Under Secretary for Memorial Affairs engaged in a prohibited personnel practice when he created a position and preselected an employee for that position. He also engaged in preferential treatment of an NCA contractor when he developed a less-than-arm’s-length relationship with the contractor. Further, NCA improperly gave the contractor sole-source contracts to provide one-to-one services to select NCA employees.

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VA OIG — Review of the Special Initiative To Process Rating Claims Pending Over 2 Years

July 15, 2014 Comments off

Review of the Special Initiative To Process Rating Claims Pending Over 2 Years (PDF)
Source: U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Office of Inspector General

On April 19, 2013, the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) began a Special Initiative to process all claims pending over 2 years. VA Regional Office (VARO) staff were to issue provisional ratings for cases awaiting required evidence and complete these older claims within 60 days. Our review focused on whether (1) provisional ratings resulted in veterans receiving benefits more quickly and helped eliminate the backlog, and (2) older claims were accurately. The Special Initiative rating process was less effective than VBA’s existing rating process in providing benefits to veterans quickly. Further, VBA removed all provisional claims from its pending inventory, despite more work being needed to complete them. This process misrepresented VBA’s actual workload of pending claims and its progress toward eliminating the overall claims backlog. At the end of June 2013 following completion of the Special Initiative, VBA reported 516,922 rating claims pending in its backlog, but only 1,258 rating claims pending over 2 years. We estimated 7,823 provisionally rated claims had been removed from the inventory though they still awaited final decisions. These claims represented less than 2 percent of VBA’s reported backlog, but about 12 percent of claims completed under the Initiative. VAROs did not prioritize finalization of the provisionally rated claims once they were issued. We estimated 6,860 provisional ratings were still waiting for final decisions as of January 2014, 6 months after the Initiative had ended. Because VBA did not ensure existing controls were functioning as needed to effectively identify and manage provisionally rated claims, some veterans may never have received final rating decisions if not for our review. Additionally, VBA did not accurately process 77 (32 percent) of 240 rating decisions we reviewed under this Initiative. Generally, these errors occurred because VAROs felt pressured to complete these claims within VBA’s 60 day deadline. We estimated VARO staff inaccurately processed 17,600 of 56,500 claims, resulting in $40.4 million in improper payments during the Initiative period. We recommended the Under Secretary for Benefits establish controls for all provisionally-rated claims, reflect these claims in VBA’s pending workload statistics, expedite finalization of provisional ratings, and review for accuracy all claims that received provisional ratings under the Special Initiative. The Under Secretary for Benefits concurred with our recommendations. Management’s planned actions are responsive and we will follow up as required on all actions.

No Time to Waste: Evidence-Based Treatment for Drug Dependence at the United States Veterans Administration Department of Veterans Affairs

July 13, 2014 Comments off

No Time to Waste: Evidence-Based Treatment for Drug Dependence at the United States Veterans Administration Department of Veterans Affairs
Source: Human Rights Watch

The 39-page report states that more than one million US veterans take prescription opioids for pain, and nearly half of them use the drugs “chronically,” or beyond 90 days. Alcohol and drug dependence is strongly associated with homelessness and mental health conditions including post-traumatic stress syndrome and depression, psychological conditions that affect 40 percent of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans in VA care. Drugs or alcohol are involved in 1 of 3 Army suicides, and the VA estimates that 22 veterans commit suicide each day.

Beyond the Waiting Lists, New Senate Report Reveals a Culture of Crime, Cover-Up and Coercion within the VA

June 24, 2014 Comments off

Beyond the Waiting Lists, New Senate Report Reveals a Culture of Crime, Cover-Up and Coercion within the VA
Source: U.S. Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK)

U.S. Senator and doctor Tom Coburn, M.D. (R-OK), today released his new oversight report “Friendly Fire: Death, Delay, and Dismay at the VA.” The report is based on a year-long investigation of VA hospitals around the nation that chronicled the inappropriate conduct and incompetence within the VA that led to well-documented deaths and delays. The report also exposes the inept congressional and agency oversight that allowed rampant misconduct to grow unchecked.

“This report shows the problems at the VA are worse than anyone imagined. The scope of the VA’s incompetence – and Congress’ indifferent oversight – is breathtaking and disturbing. This investigation found the problems at the VA are far deeper than just scheduling. Over the past decade, more than 1,000 veterans may have died as a result of the VA’s misconduct and the VA has paid out nearly $1 billion to veterans and their families for its medical malpractice. As is typical with any bureaucracy, the excuse for not being able to meet goals is a lack of resources. But this is not the case at the VA where spending has increased rapidly in recent years,” Dr. Coburn said.

Combined Assessment Program Summary Report – Evaluation of the Controlled Substances Inspection Program at Veterans Health Administration Facilities

June 13, 2014 Comments off

Combined Assessment Program Summary Report – Evaluation of the Controlled Substances Inspection Program at Veterans Health Administration Facilities (PDF)
Source: U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Office of Inspector General

The purpose of the review was to determine whether Veterans Health Administration (VHA) facilities complied with requirements related to controlled substances (CS) security and inspections and to follow up on the OIG report Healthcare Inspection – Review of Selected Pharmacy Operations in Veterans Health Administration Facilities (Report No. 07-03524-40, December 3, 2009). OIG performed this review in conjunction with 58 Combined Assessment Program reviews of VHA medical facilities conducted from October 1, 2012, through September 30, 2013. OIG identified opportunities for improvement in: conducting annual physical security surveys and correcting identified deficiencies; completing quarterly trend reports and providing them to facility Directors; conducting monthly CS inspections of non-pharmacy areas; completing non-pharmacy inspection activities; performing emergency drug cache quarterly physical counts and monthly verification of seals; validating completion of required drug destruction activities, accountability of prescription pads stored in the pharmacy, and outpatient pharmacy written prescriptions for schedule II drugs; providing annual CS inspector training. VHA can strengthen policy by defining acceptable reasons for missed CS area inspections and providing guidance on CS Coordinator performance of monthly inspections. OIG made 10 recommendations.

Department of Veterans Affairs Access Audit– System-Wide Review of Access: Results of Access Audit Conducted May 12, 2014, through June 3, 2014

June 9, 2014 Comments off

Department of Veterans Affairs Access Audit– System-Wide Review of Access: Results of Access Audit Conducted May 12, 2014, through June 3, 2014 (PDF)
Source: U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

1. Efforts to meet needs of Veterans (and clinicians) led to an overly complicated scheduling process that resulted in high potential to create confusion among scheduling clerks and front-line supervisors.

2. Meeting a 14-day wait-time performance target for new appointments was simply not attainable given the ongoing challenge of finding sufficient provider slots to accommodate a growing demand for services. Imposing this expectation on the field before ascertaining the resources required and its ensuing broad promulgation represent an organizational leadership failure.

3. The concept of “desired date” is a scheduling practice unique to VA, and difficult to reconcile against more accepted practices such as negotiating a specific appointment date based on provider availability, or using a “return to clinic” interval requested by providers.

4. Overall, 13 percent of scheduling staff interviewed indicated they received instruction (from supervisors or others) to enter in the “desired date” field a date different from the date the Veteran had requested. At least one instance of such practices was identified in 76 percent of VA facilities. In certain instances this may be appropriate (e.g., a provider-directed date can, under VA policy, override a date specified by a patient), but the survey did not distinguish this, nor did it determine whether this was done through lack of understanding or malintent unless it was clearly apparent.

5. Eight percent of scheduling staff indicated they used alternatives to the Electronic Wait List (EWL) or Veterans Health Information Systems and Technology Architecture (VistA) package. At least one of such instance was identified in 70 percent of facilities. As with desired date practices, we did not probe the extent to which some of these alternatives might have been justified under VA policy. The questionnaire employed did not isolate appropriate uses of external lists.

6. Findings indicate that in some cases, pressures were placed on schedulers to utilize inappropriate practices in order to make waiting times (based on desired date, and the waiting lists), appear more favorable. Such practices are sufficiently pervasive to require VA re-examine its entire performance management system and, in particular, whether current measures and targets for access are realistic or sufficient.

7. Staffing challenges were identified in small CBOCs, especially where there were small counts of providers or administrative support.

See also: VA Access Audit (all reports)

CRS — The Number of Veterans That Use VA Health Care Services: A Fact Sheet

June 5, 2014 Comments off

The Number of Veterans That Use VA Health Care Services: A Fact Sheet (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

It’s a simple question—how many veterans use services at the Veterans Health Administration (VHA)? It’s a question being asked a lot these days, and it is important, baseline information to know when changes are being contemplated1 to the way in which VA delivers health care to veterans.

In the course of an investigation into allegations that veterans seeking health care services from the VHA experienced long delays in treatment, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Office of Inspector General (OIG) released an interim report3 that substantiated the delays. Final determinations by the OIG of the full scope and impact of the problems, including whether delays in treatment resulted in harm to or the death of any veterans, will not be available until the OIG completes its investigation and issues a final report.

The issue of wait times for VA health care is not new (see CRS Insight IN10063, Wait Times for Veterans Health Not New). Approaches to providing timely access to care for veterans enrolled in VA health care have included the use of non-VA care reimbursed by the VA (see CRS Insight IN10074, Getting Health Care Outside the VA). The need to rely on non-VA care in some cases has raised questions about the VA’s capacity to provide services to the veteran population now and in the future. Knowing how many veterans there are is essential to answering those questions.

Healthcare Inspection – VA Patterns of Dispensing Take-Home Opioids and Monitoring Patients on Opioid Therapy

May 29, 2014 Comments off

Healthcare Inspection – VA Patterns of Dispensing Take-Home Opioids and Monitoring Patients on Opioid Therapy
Source: U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Office of Inspector General

As requested by the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, the VA Office of Inspector General assessed the provision of VA outpatient (take-home) opioids and monitoring of patients on opioid therapy. The population consisted of nearly half a million patients who were not receiving hospice/palliative care and who filled at least 1 oral or transdermal opioid prescription from VA for self-administration at home in FY 2012. The average and the median patient age was 59.4 and 61, respectively, and nearly 94 percent of them had been diagnosed with either pain or mental health issues and 58.4 percent with both. We determined that take-home benzodiazepines were dispensed to 7.4 percent of the study population, and 71 percent were dispensed concurrently with opioids. Take-home acetaminophens were given to 92.3 percent of the patients, and 2.0 percent of them were given an average daily dose that exceeded the maximum recommended daily dose of 4 grams. We found that 38.8 percent of the patients received medication management or pharmacy reconciliation. We determined that 6.4 percent of the new patients received both a urine drug test (UDT) prior to and a follow-up within 30 days of therapy initiation, that 37.0 percent of the existing opioid patients received both an annual UDT and a follow-up contact within 6 months of each filled opioid prescription, and that 10.5 percent of active substance use patients received both treatment for substance use and a UDT within 90 days of each filled opioid prescription. Even for the subpopulation of 19,724 active substance use patients who were on opioids for more than 90 days in FY 2012, we determined that only 18.8 percent of them received both a substance use disorder treatment in the FY and a UDT for each 90 days on opioids. We made six recommendations.

Interim Report: Review of VHA’s Patient Wait Times, Scheduling Practices, and Alleged Patient Deaths at the Phoenix Health Care System

May 28, 2014 Comments off

Interim Report: Review of VHA’s Patient Wait Times, Scheduling Practices, and Alleged Patient Deaths at the Phoenix Health Care System (PDF)
Source: U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Office of Inspector General

OIG provides an interim report of the ongoing review at the Phoenix Health Care System (HCS). The report identifies the allegations substantiated to date, and provides recommendations that VA should implement immediately. Allegations at the Phoenix HCS include gross mismanagement of VA resources and criminal misconduct by VA senior hospital leadership, creating systemic patient safety issues and possible wrongful deaths. While the review is still underway, OIG has substantiated that significant delays in access to care negatively impacted the quality care at this medical facility.

We initiated this review in response to allegations first reported to the OIG Hotline and expanded it at the request of the VA Secretary and the Chairman of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee (HVAC). Due to the multitude and broad range of issues, we are conducting a comprehensive review requiring an in-depth examination of many sources of information necessitating access to records and personnel, both within and external to VA. We are using our combined expertise in audit, healthcare inspections, and criminal investigations, along with our institutional knowledge of VA programs and operations and legal authority to conduct a review of this nature and scope.

Our reviews have identified multiple types of scheduling practices that are not in compliance with VHA policy. Since the multiple lists we found were something other than the official EWL, these additional lists may be the basis for allegations of creating “secret” wait lists. We are not reporting the results of our clinical reviews in this interim report on whether any delay in scheduling a primary care appointment resulted in a delay in diagnosis or treatment, particularly for those veterans who died while on a waiting list.

Lastly, while conducting our work at the Phoenix HCS our on-site OIG staff and OIG Hotline receive numerous allegations daily of mismanagement, inappropriate hiring decisions, sexual harassment, and bullying behavior by mid- and senior-level managers at this facility. We are assessing the validity of these complaints and if true, the impact to the facility’s senior leadership’s ability to make effective improvements to patients’ access to care. We will make recommendations in our final report and ask the VA Secretary to submit target dates and implementation plans.

We recommend the VA Secretary take immediate action to review and provide appropriate health care to the 1,700 veterans we identified as not being on any existing wait list. Also, we recommend a review of all existing wait lists at the Phoenix Health Care System to identify veterans who may be at greatest risk because of a delay in the delivery of health care. We recommend initiation of a nationwide review of veterans on wait lists to ensure that veterans are seen in an appropriate time, given their clinical condition.

Finally, we recommend the VA Secretary direct the Health Eligibility Center to run a nationwide New Enrollee Appointment Request report by facility of all newly enrolled veterans and direct facility leadership to ensure all veterans have received appropriate care or are shown on the facility’s electronic waiting list.

CRS — Veterans’ Medical Care: FY2015 Appropriations

May 27, 2014 Comments off

Veterans’ Medical Care: FY2015 Appropriations (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) provides benefits to veterans who meet certain eligibility criteria. Benefits to veterans range from disability compensation and pensions to hospital and medical care. The VA provides these benefits through three major operating units: the Veterans Health Administration (VHA), the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA), and the National Cemetery Administration (NCA). This report focuses on funding for the VHA. The VHA is primarily a direct service provider of primary care, specialized care, and related medical and social support services to veterans through the nation’s largest integrated health care system. Eligibility for VA health care is based primarily on previous military service, disability, and income.

Interim Report – VBA’s Efforts to Effectively Obtain Service Treatment Records and Official Military Personnel Files

May 21, 2014 Comments off

Interim Report – VBA’s Efforts to Effectively Obtain Service Treatment Records and Official Military Personnel Files (PDF)
Source: U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Office of Inspector General

We are conducting this audit to determine whether the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) is receiving required Service Treatment Records (STR) information from DoD to timely process veterans’ disability claims, and also to assess VBA’s effectiveness in ensuring STRs and official military personnel files (OMPF) are provided timely to regional offices (RO).

During our ongoing work, we conducted a site visit and tour at the RO in St. Petersburg, FL. We identified file storage and mail processing issues requiring attention and action by the Under Secretary for Benefits. RO employees shared information during interviews that supported our observations and the issues identified.

The RO has a large file room used to store claims folders, as well as STRs and copies of OMPFs that have been combined with claims folders. We observed that the file room was overfilled with records. As a result, RO personnel have encountered difficulties locating files and in moving files in the permanent shelving units due to the volume and weight of the files.

The Intake Processing Center (IPC) within the RO receives incoming documents and files from the mailroom. We determined that mailroom personnel did not date stamp STR files and copies of OMPFs files at the time of receipt. Without this information, RO management cannot review and assess potential issues and delays with receiving and processing STR and OMPF requests.

Once documents and files are delivered to the IPC, employees sort and prepare evidence mail, which includes STRs and copies of OMPFs. Claims processors use evidence mail to further develop and make decisions on veterans’ disability claims. IPC employees reported that there was about a 3 week delay in sorting and processing evidence mail received from the mailroom.

In an effort to address these issues immediately, we are issuing an Interim Report-Management Advisory Memo, and have made three recommendations to help ensure efficient file storage and mail processing at the RO. Reporting on these issues allows VBA the opportunity to take timely corrective actions. The Under Secretary for Benefits concurred with our recommendations and provided suitable action plans. Based on actions taken, we consider two recommendations closed. We will follow up as required on the other recommendation and continue with our ongoing national audit.

Audit of VHA’s Mobile Medical Units

May 16, 2014 Comments off

Audit of VHA’s Mobile Medical Units
Source: U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Office of Inspector General

At the request of the House Committee on Appropriations, the Office of Inspector General (OIG) conducted a review of VA’s use of Mobile Medical Units (MMUs) to assess whether the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) is fully utilizing MMUs to provide health care access to veterans in rural areas. We found that VHA lacks information about the operations of its MMUs and has not collected sufficient data to determine whether MMUs improved rural veterans’ health care access. VHA lacks information on the number, locations, purpose, patient workloads, and MMU operating costs. We determined VHA operated at least 47 MMUs in fiscal year 2013. Of these, 19 were funded by the Office of Rural Health (ORH) and the remaining 28 were funded by either a Veterans Integrated Service Network or medical facility. Medical facilities captured utilization and cost data in VHA’s Decision Support System (DSS) for only 6 of the estimated 47 MMUs. If VHA consistently captured these data, it could compare MMU utilization and costs with other health care delivery approaches to ensure MMUs are providing efficient health care access to veterans in rural areas. These weaknesses occurred because VHA did not designate specific program responsibility for MMU management, define a clear purpose for its MMUs, or establish policies and guidance for effective and efficient MMU operations. As a result of limited MMU data, we were unable to fully address the committee’s concerns. However, it is apparent that VHA cannot demonstrate whether the almost $29 million ORH spent, as well as unknown medical facility funding for MMUs, increased rural veterans’ health care access and the extent to which MMUs can be mobilized to support its emergency preparedness mission. We recommended the Under Secretary for Health improve the oversight of MMUs by assessing their effect on rural veterans’ health care access, establishing specific program responsibilities, policies, and guidance, including requirements to capture MMU data in DSS, and supporting emergency preparedness plans. The Under Secretary for Health concurred with our recommendations and provided an acceptable action plan. We will follow up on the implementation of the corrective actions.

FY 2013 Review of VA’s Compliance With the Improper Payments Elimination and Recovery Act

April 21, 2014 Comments off

FY 2013 Review of VA’s Compliance With the Improper Payments Elimination and Recovery Act (PDF)
Source: U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Office of Inspector General

Why We Did This Review
We conducted this fiscal year (FY) 2013 review to determine whether VA complied with the Improper Payments Elimination and Recovery Act (IPERA). VA reported $1.1 billion in improper payments in its FY 2013 Performance and Accountability Report (PAR). The OIG’s assessment of VA’s compliance with IPERA for FY 2013 is based on FY 2012 data as reported by VA.

Report Highlights:
FY 2013 Review of VA’s Compliance With the Improper Payments Elimination and Recovery Act Why We Did This Review We conducted this fiscal year (FY) 2013 review to determine whether VA complied with the Improper Payments Elimination and Recovery Act (IPERA). VA reported $1.1 billion in improper payments in its FY 2013 Performance and Accountability Report (PAR). The OIG’s assessment of VA’s compliance with IPERA for FY 2013 is based on FY 2012 data as reported by VA. What We Found VA met five IPERA requirements for FY 2013 by publishing a PAR, performing risk assessments, publishing improper payment estimates, providing information on corrective action plan s, and reporting on its payment recapture efforts. VA also implemented a new risk assessment process in FY 2013 across all of its programs.

VA did not comply with two of seven IPERA requirements for FY 2013. The Veterans Health Admi nistration reported a gross improper payment ra te of greater than 10 percent for one program and did not meet reduction targets for two programs. This represents an improvement over FY 2012 when VA did not comply with four of the seven IPERA requirements.

Nonetheless, we identified areas for improvement in the Veterans Benefits Administration’s (VBA) IPERA reporting. VBA underreported improper payments for its Compensation program. Test procedures for the Compensation program and one Education program also did not include steps needed to identify all types of improper payments.

What We Recommended
We recommended the Under Secretary for Health implement the corrective action plan included in the PAR to reduce improper payments for the State Home Per Diem program, and develop achievable reduction targets for that and Beneficiary Travel programs. We also recommended the Under Secretary for Benefits ensure thorough procedures for testing sample items used to estimate improper payments for the Compensation and Post 9/11 G.I. Bill programs.

Agency Comments
The Under Secretary for Health concurred with Recommendations 1 and 2. We closed Recommendation 2 based on the actions already completed.

The Under Secretary for Benefits partially concurred with Recommendation 3, citing completed actions to enhance Compensation program testing. The Under Secretary did not agree with a need to change the current Education test plan, but proposed an acceptable alternative analysis to determine risk in Education payments. We will follow up on implementation of this action during our next annual IPERA review.

CRS — Health Care for Veterans: Answers to Frequently Asked Questions (updated)

April 7, 2014 Comments off

Health Care for Veterans: Answers to Frequently Asked Questions (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via University of North Texas Digital Library)

The Veterans Health Administration (VHA), within the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), operates the nation’s largest integrated health care delivery system, provides care to approximately 5.75 million unique veteran patients, and employs more than 270,000 full-time equivalent employees.

Audit of VHA’s Supportive Services for Veteran Families Program

April 2, 2014 Comments off

Audit of VHA’s Supportive Services for Veteran Families Program (PDF)
Source: U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Office of Inspector General

At the request of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, Subcommittee on Health, we conducted this audit to determine if the Veterans Health Administration’s (VHA) Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) program grantees appropriately expended program funds. In December 2010, VA established the SSVF program to rapidly re-house homeless veteran families and prevent homelessness for those at imminent risk due to a housing crisis. For fiscal years (FYs) 2012 and 2013, the VHA awarded about $60 million and $100 million in SSVF grants, respectively, and has increased awards to nearly $300 million for FY 2014. We found that VHA’s SSVF program has adequate financial controls in place that are working as intended to provide reasonable assurance that funds are appropriately expended by grantees. We determined program staff were reviewing grantee timecards, invoices for temporary financial assistance, subcontractor costs, and conducted annual inspections. However, SSVF program officials can improve controls to ensure only eligible veterans and their family members participate in the program. We found three of five grantees used outdated area median income (AMI) limits to determine eligibility for the program. In addition, four of five grantees did not verify veterans’ discharge status with the required “Certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty” (DD 214). This occurred because some grantees were not aware when new AMI limits were published. To avoid delaying program participation, grantees did not always follow up to ensure receipt of the required DD 214 when an interim eligibility document was used. As a result, VHA risks providing SSVF services to ineligible veterans or excluding eligible veterans from the program. We recommended the Under Secretary for Health ensure SSVF program management implements a mechanism to inform grantees when the most current AMI limits are published and ensure grantees comply with eligibility documentation requirements. The Under Secretary for Health concurred with our recommendations and provided an appropriate action plan. We consider the SSVF program actions sufficient and closed the recommendations as completed.

New From the GAO

March 25, 2014 Comments off

New GAO Report and Testimony
Source: Government Accountability office

Report

1. Architect of the Capitol: Incorporating All Leading Practices Could Improve Accuracy and Credibility of Projects’ Cost Estimates. GAO-14-333, March 25.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-333
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/661902.pdf

Testimony

1. Information Security: VA Needs to Address Long-Standing Challenges, by Gregory C. Wilshusen, director, information security issues, before the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs. GAO-14-469T, March 25.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-469T
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/661898.pdf

VA OIG — Administrative Investigation Failure to Properly Supervise, Misuse of Official Time and Resources, and Prohibited Personnel Practice VA Center for Innovation VA Central Office (redacted)

March 3, 2014 Comments off

Administrative Investigation Failure to Properly Supervise, Misuse of Official Time and Resources, and Prohibited Personnel Practice VA Center for Innovation VA Central Office (PDF)
Source: U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Office of Inspector General

The former (resigned) Director of VA’s Center for Innovation did not properly detail and supervise a GS-12 VBA Rating Veterans Service Representative (RVSR), which led to the RVSR misusing official time, unauthorized travel, misusing about $31,000 in travel funds, misusing a VA position and resources, and installing unapproved software to a VA laptop for sexting. The former Director also engaged in a prohibited personnel practice when he pressured VBA officials to create a non-competitive GS-13/14 position to give preference to and promote the RVSR; however, he intentionally did not tell the VBA officials of an ongoing OIG investigation of the RVSR for misconduct so that they could make fully informed decisions. Further, VBA officials engaged in a prohibited personnel practice when they failed to make proper considerations in their personnel decisions and created a position to promote the RVSR without question and solely due to the former Director’s request.

Audit of VA’s Hearing Aid Services

February 24, 2014 Comments off

Audit of VA’s Hearing Aid Services (PDF)
Source: U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Office of Inspector General

We conducted this audit to evaluate the effectiveness of VA’s administration of hearing aid order and repair services through VA’s audiology services. Tinnitus and hearing loss were the first and second most prevalent service-connected disabilities for veterans receiving compensation at the end of FY 2012. VA was not timely in issuing new hearing aids to veterans or in meeting its 5-day timeliness goal to complete repair services. During the 6-month period ending September 2012, the Veterans Health Administration issued 30 percent of its hearing aids to veterans more than 30 days from the estimated receipt date from their vendors. Medical facilities’ audiology staff attributed the delays to inadequate staffing to meet an increased workload. In addition, the Denver Acquisition and Logistics Center (DALC) took 17 to 24 days to complete hearing aid repair services, exceeding its 5-day timeliness goal. During this period, 5 of 21 repair technician positions were vacant. These vacancies, and an increased workload, adversely affected DALC’s ability to meet its timeliness goal for hearing aid repairs. We observed and estimated about 19,500 sealed packages of hearing aids were waiting for repair and staff to record the date received into DALC’s production system. According to management, staff did not record the date they received the packages because opening packages had the potential risk of losing small parts. Without a timely recording system, staff cannot adequately respond to veteran and medical facility inquiries. We recommended the Under Secretary for Health develop a plan to implement productivity standards and staffing plans for audiology clinics. Also, we recommended the Principal Executive Director of the Office of Acquisition, Logistics, and Construction ensure DALC determines the appropriate staffing levels for its repair lab and establish controls to timely track and monitor hearing aids for repair. The Under Secretary for Health and Principal Executive Director, Office of Acquisition, Logistics, and Construction, and the Office of Inspector General concurred with our recommendations.

CRS — “Who is a Veteran?” — Basic Eligibility for Veterans’ Benefits

January 31, 2014 Comments off

“Who is a Veteran?” — Basic Eligibility for Veterans’ Benefits (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

A broad range of benefits are offered to veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces and to certain members of their families by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Among these benefits are various types of financial assistance, including monthly cash payments to disabled veterans, health care, education, and housing benefits. Basic criteria must be met to be eligible to receive any of the benefits administered by the VA.

For a former servicemember to receive certain VA benefits, the person must have active U.S. military service for a minimum period of time and meet nature of discharge requirements. Some members of the National Guard and reserve components have difficulty meeting the active duty and length of service requirements. However, a member of the National Guard or reserve components who is activated for federal military service and serves the full period of activation is considered a veteran for purposes of VA benefits.

The GI Bill Improvement Act of 1977 (P.L. 95-202) recognized the service of one group of civilians, the Women’s Air Force Service Pilots, as active service for benefits administered by the VA, and it also established that the Secretary of Defense could determine that service for the Armed Forces by a group of civilians, or contractors, be considered active service for benefits administered by the VA.

This report examines the basic eligibility criteria for VA administered veterans’ benefits, including the issue of eligibility of members of the National Guard and reserve components.

Department of Veterans Affairs FY 2014-2020 Strategic Plan

December 30, 2013 Comments off

Department of Veterans Affairs FY 2014-2020 Strategic Plan (PDF)
Source: U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

We serve a shrinking, but increasingly diverse, Veteran population. The number and complexity of disability claims continues to increase. Changes in health technologies, health legislation, and health care delivery systems will impact both public and private sector health care models. Technological advances in all disciplines are changing the way we communicate, learn, shop, travel, monitor our health, conduct warfare, and even memorialize the fallen. Our service to Veterans must reflect these changes.

This VA Strategic Plan for FY 2014-2020 builds on our prior (FY 2011-2015) strategic plan. We will continue to significantly transform how we operate as a Department. We will keep the promises we have made to increase access, eliminate the claims backlog, and end Veteran homelessness. In addition, this plan places a stronger emphasis on defining success by Veteran outcomes; enhancing the quality of and access to benefits and services through integration within VA and with our partners; and developing our workforce with the skills, tools, and leadership to meet our clients’ needs and expectations.

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