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The VA’s Improper Payments Are Getting Worse, Not Better
The Department of Veterans Affairs cost taxpayers $5.5 billion dollars in improper payments last year, according to a new report by the Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General published Monday. An improper payment is any payment that “should not have been made or that was made in an incorrect amount under statutory, contractual, administrative, or other legally applicable requirements,” according to the report.
The findings, published on May 15, reported an increase in improper payments from $5 billion in 2015 to $5.5 billion in 2016. It also found that two VA programs failed to keep their rate of mistaken payments below 10%, and six of its programs failed to meet reduction targets set last year.
The two biggest offenders for the department were VA Community Care and Purchased Long Term Services and Support, which had improper payment rates of 75% and 69%, respectively. That means that with VA Community Care, three out of every four payments made were incorrect. What’s more, the improper payment rate for these two programs actually increased from the year prior, when VA Community Care had a rate of 54.77% and PLTSS of 59.14%, despite the fact that the inspector general made explicit recommendations in 2015 to help improve payment processes for these two specific programs.
This is far from an isolated problem, and it’s one that goes well beyond the VA. For the fourth year in a row, the federal government has increasingly wasted money on improper payments — incorrectly spending $144 billion in 2016, compared to $137 billion in 2015, according to the Federal News Radio.
At the VA, the agency did see a decrease in incorrect payments for three Veterans Benefits Administration programs — compensation, pension, and Post-9/11 GI Bill — of more than $1.25 billion compared to 2015. However, it was the two Veterans Health Administration programs — Community Care and PLTSS — that led to the overall increase. Community Care alone saw a total of $1.4 billion improper payments, or 25% of the total amount that year.
In two other cases — the Post-9/11 G.I. Bill and the Supplies and Materials Program — improper payment estimates were considered “unreliable” because of “weaknesses in sample evaluation procedures,” the OIG reported.
It may be tempting to cry negligence on the VA’s part, but bureaucratic red tape may be partially to blame for the improper payments, Carlos Fuentes, the national legislative service director for Veterans of Foreign Wars, told Task & Purpose.
“The community care and long-term care improper payments would be dramatically reduced if Congress were to pass provider agreement authority, which the VFW supports and has urged Congress to swiftly consider and pass,” Fuentes said. “This authority would allow VA to pay for care that cannot be delivered through [Federal Acquisition Regulation]-based contracts, which are now considered improper payments.”
Though, that doesn’t excuse the VA from all responsibility, and the department “must be a good steward of the precious resources it’s given to care for our nation's veterans,” Fuentes said.
UPDATE: This article has been updated to include a statement from Veterans of Foreign Wars. (Updated 5/15/2017; 7:05 pm EST)
The former Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs thinks that the VA needs to start researching medical marijuana. Not in a bit. Not soon. Right goddamn now.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Donald Trump's withholding of $391 million in military aid to Ukraine was linked to his request that the Ukrainians look into a claim — debunked as a conspiracy theory — about the 2016 U.S. election, a senior presidential aide said on Thursday, the first time the White House acknowledged such a connection.
Trump and administration officials had denied for weeks that they had demanded a "quid pro quo" - a Latin phrase meaning a favor for a favor - for delivering the U.S. aid, a key part of a controversy that has triggered an impeachment inquiry in the House of Representatives against the Republican president.
But Mick Mulvaney, acting White House chief of staff, acknowledged in a briefing with reporters that the U.S. aid — already approved by Congress — was held up partly over Trump's concerns about a Democratic National Committee (DNC) computer server alleged to be in Ukraine.
"I have news for everybody: Get over it. There is going to be political influence in foreign policy," Mulvaney said.
CEYLANPINAR, Turkey (Reuters) - Shelling could be heard at the Syrian-Turkish border on Friday morning despite a five-day ceasefire agreed between Turkey and the United States, and Washington said the deal covered only a small part of the territory Ankara aims to seize.
Reuters journalists at the border heard machine-gun fire and shelling and saw smoke rising from the Syrian border battlefield city of Ras al Ain, although the sounds of fighting had subsided by mid-morning.
The truce, announced on Thursday by U.S. Vice President Mike Pence after talks in Ankara with Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, sets out a five-day pause to let the Kurdish-led SDF militia withdraw from an area controlled by Turkish forces.
The SDF said air and artillery attacks continued to target its positions and civilian targets in Ral al Ain.
"Turkey is violating the ceasefire agreement by continuing to attack the town since last night," SDF spokesman Mustafa Bali tweeted.
The Kurdish-led administration in the area said Turkish truce violations in Ras al Ain had caused casualties, without giving details.
Boyfriends can sometimes do some really weird shit. Much of it is well-meaning: A boy I liked in high school once sang me a screamo song that he wrote over the phone. He thought it would be sweet, and while I appreciated that he wanted to share it with me, I also had no idea what he was saying. Ah, young love.
Sure, this sounds cringeworthy. But then there's 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Cory Booker, who appears to be, dare I say, the best boyfriend?
The Colt Model 1911 .45 caliber semiautomatic pistol that John Browning dreamed up more than a century ago remains on of the most beloved sidearms in U.S. military history. Hell, there's a reason why Army Gen. Scott Miller, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, still rocks an M1911A1 on his hip despite the fact that the Army no longer issues them to soldiers.
But if scoring one of the Army's remaining M1911s through the Civilian Marksmanship Program isn't enough to satisfy your adoration for the classic sidearm, then Colt has something right up your alley: the Colt Model 1911 'Black Army' pistol.