More Mismanagement and Millions Wasted at the VA
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The Fiscal Times
June 4, 2014

Backlogs and wait lists aren’t the only problems at the VA.

Severe management failures within the Veterans Affairs leasing office have resulted in significant cost overruns and major delays acquiring additional medical centers needed to reduce the agency’s backlog and serve more veterans in a timely manner.

A new GAO report shows that 39 of the 41 projects reviewed—with a contract value of about $2.5 billion—experienced schedule delays. The delays ranged from six months to, in one instance more than 13 years to open new VA medical facilities.

Related: Meet the Independent Watchdog Taking on the VA

Government auditors estimated that the department’s rent for nearly 60 percent of its outpatient medical buildings increased by an average of $34.5 million a year. GAO attributed the cost increases to the agency’s late submissions for space requirements, or in some instances, the agency “would change space requirements and thus the scope of the project, which necessitated “a redesign that affected the schedule.”

GAO said the increases in rent could have “long-term implications because the department must pay the higher rent over the lifetime of the lease agreement.”

The report comes amid a federal investigation into alleged wrongdoings and mismanagement issues within the VA’s health system that include agency employees keeping hidden wait lists of veterans who were trying to seek medical treatment. Veterans were reportedly kept waiting for months for medical care—40 patients allegedly died waiting for treatment.

Related: Vets Blow the Whistle on Negligent VA Management

VA groups and federal employees have attributed the agency’s massive backlog and wait times to a lack of resources.

“If we’re planning on ending wait lists at the VA we have to have additional staffing,” J. David Cox, national president of the American Federation of Government said. “If congress is going to do their jobs, they need to appropriate more money.

The latest GAO report, however, suggests that some of the agency’s resources have not been used wisely—resulting in delays to the creation of new medical centers that could service veterans.

GAO recommends in the report that the VA update its policy for leasing outpatient clinics to prevent cost increases and delays in the future. The agency concurred with the auditor’s recommendation. 

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Washington Correspondent Brianna Ehley, based in D.C., covers Congress, government agencies and spending issues, health care, and tax and economic policy for The Fiscal Times.