A report from the Veteran Affairs’ Office of the Inspector General released Tuesday details how the VA over-obligated $543 million for non-VA care that due to federal spending laws were not allowed to be spent on veterans.
The “Non-VA Care” (NVC) program is designed to help veterans who cannot easily access VA facilities. The Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability Act of 2014 separated NVC funding from other VA medical appropriations effectively causing the over-obligated funds to not be used for any purpose.
The estimated NVC costs per veteran in 2013 was $4,515, meaning if the VA had reduced the over-obligation of funds from 29 percent to just 10 percent, it would have freed enough money, $358 million, to fund non-VA care for nearly 80,000 veterans who were experiencing delays in receiving care.
The report blames a lack of resources available to the VA for the overestimation of funds. The IG writes that the VHA did not:
- Provide facilities with adequate tools to accurately estimate costs of NVC services
- Require medical facility staff to routinely adjust cost estimates for individual authorized services to better reflect actual costs.
- Ensure medical facility staff adjusted the estimated amount of obligated funds in the Veterans Health Information Systems and Technology Architecture (VistA) after any payments were complete
- Require facilities to analyze the accuracy of prior-year obligation balances.
Rep. Jeff Miller, chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, told the Military Times, “If VA’s job was mismanaging money, it would have a near-perfect record of achievement. … Yet despite this and other high-profile budgetary failures, all too often the department’s knee-jerk response to challenges is to ask taxpayers for more money.”
The VA asked Congress Tuesday for additional $1.3 billion in funding.