The VA’s Improper Payments Are Getting Worse, Not Better

Veterans Benefits
Photo via Flickr

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.

Related: A Law Against ‘Double Dipping’ Is Forcing Disabled Vets To Pay Back Separation Benefits »

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)

Casperassets.rbl.ms

Benjamin Franklin nailed it when he said, "Fatigue is the best pillow." True story, Benny. There's nothing like pushing your body so far past exhaustion that you'd willingly, even longingly, take a nap on a concrete slab.

Take $75 off a Casper Mattress and $150 off a Wave Mattress with code TASKANDPURPOSE

And no one knows that better than military service members and we have the pictures to prove it.

Read More Show Less
Veterans Day at the Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery, 11 November, 2018. Photo: Erich Backes/U.S. Army

In typical veteran community fashion, hundreds of people showed up to two separate funerals last week for veterans who otherwise would have been buried alone.

Read More Show Less
(U.S. Marine Corps/Lance Cpl. Darien J. Bjorndal)

KABUL (Reuters) - The Taliban killed more than 100 members of the Afghan security forces inside a military compound in central Maidan Wardak province on Monday, a senior defense official said.

Read More Show Less
Coast Guard cutter Bertholf on a counterdrug patrol in the eastern Pacific Ocean, March 11, 2018. (U.S. Coast Guard/Petty Officer 2nd Class Michael Trees

U.S. Coast Guard cutter Bertholf left California on January 20 for a months-long mission in the Pacific to support U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, the largest of the U.S. military's geographic combatant commands.

Coast Guardsmen aboard the Bertholf left Alameda on the 30th day of what is now the longest government shutdown in U.S. history. They left a few days after not getting their first paycheck since that shutdown started and without knowing when the next will come.

Read More Show Less
Plebes in the U.S. Naval Academy Class of 2015 march into Bancroft Hall following noon meal formation in Tecumseh Court. (U.S. Navy)

Leaking pipes. Moldering walls. Condemned offices and balconies. Plumbing that can't handle its load and a stormwater system dumping unfiltered rainwater into the Severn River.

These aren't the issues of a long-abandoned factory. They describe the current condition of the Naval Academy.

Read More Show Less