The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) just can’t seem to stay out of trouble.
On August 9 the VA Office of Inspector General released a report entitled “Review of the Alleged Waste of Funds at the VA Medical Center (VAMC) in Detroit, Michigan,” which substantiated claims reported back in January that the hospital squandered over $300,000 in unused televisions.
Apparently the VAMC bought the TVs in September 2013 to revamp the patients’ entertainment system. However, VAMC officials failed to coordinate the purchase with assisting contractors. The TVs were later found incompatible with existing design plans. Instead of cashing in on warranty offers, officials simply transferred the TVs into storage rooms, rending them useless, and a huge waste of money.
Though it may seem like a minor, albeit, careless mistake, the incident underscores the VA’s recent history of misconduct.
In 2014, the Obama administration faced significant backlash when reports surfaced indicating that government officials covered up the extensive waiting periods veterans endured before getting treatment at VA hospitals. In several cases, these wait times resulted in veteran fatalities.
Two years later, OpenTheBooks.com, an online source of government spending information, released a report stating that almost 500,000 veterans were still forced to wait more than 30 days before seeing a VA doctor. The target wait time for veterans at VA hospitals is 14 days.
The damning report also called into question the VA’s use of payroll spending. Despite curiously long waiting periods, the VA created roughly 40,000 new jobs from 2012 to 2015. However, less than 10% of these jobs were given to doctors.
As for the latest VA scandal, investigation into the department’s blatant misuse of government funds, prolonged waiting times, and use of falsified documents will determine the VAMC’s fate. Yet, even if the VAMC escapes harsh reprimand, the episode will undoubtedly trigger greater scrutiny into future VA practices and policies.