More than half of the benefit payments made last year by two major Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) programs were incorrect, costing taxpayers at least $3 billion, according to a new Government Accountability Office (GAO) report.
Officials in VA’s Community Care program made 54.77 percent of $3.9 billion payments in error, while Purchased Long Term Care and Support officials made 59.14 percent of $1.5 billion total payments in error, according to the 70-page GAO report.
Those are by far the highest error rates for any federal program GAO analyzed for its latest annual improper payments report. The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) prorgram for low-income families had the third-worst improper payment rate, but wasted far more tax dollars — $15.6 billion of $65.6 billion in total payments, or 23.78 percent. (RELATED: VA Improperly Paid Incarcerated Vets $100 Million Because It Didn’t Care Enough To Adjust Benefits)
The report didn’t elaborate on the cause of the VA programs’ exceptionally high benefit payment error rates. The government-wide improper payment rate for 2015 was 4.39 percent.
Overall, federal agencies made $137 billion in improper payments in fiscal year 2015, a figure that’s “increased considerably,” GAO said. Improper payments amounted to $105 billion in fiscal year 2013, and $124.7 billion in fiscal year 2014.
The federal government has wasted $1 trillion on improper payments since 2003.
Improper payments include underpayments too, but underpayments are rarer than overpayments. Paymentaccuracy.gov, a U.S. Department of the Treasury website, estimated that underpayments accounted for $11 billion of the 2015 improper payments, while overpayments accounted for $126 billion.
A spokesman for VA could not be reached late Friday for comment.
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