• Report: VA Isn’t Protecting Beneficiaries Who Need Help The Most

    Representatives of the Veterans Benefits Administration are apparently shirking their duty when it comes to protecting the benefits of veterans they’ve been assigned to oversee, according to a new inspector general report.

    The VA has what it calls a Fiduciary Program, designed to help veterans who are not in a position to take care of their own benefits, due to age, injury or some other reason. To help each veteran, the VA appoints a fiduciary to disburse benefits. In fiscal year 2013, the VBA provided over $2.6 billion in benefits under the program.

    But the program is fraught with misuse. And even when the VA is aware of the misuse, it simply fails to take action to remedy the problem. In total, during 2013, the VBA “did not timely complete required actions to ensure the protection of 758 beneficiaries.”

    When examining a sample of 122 beneficiaries, the inspector general discovered that VBA failed to process 44 percent of actions required to find out if misuse occurred.

    Timeliness differed slightly depending on which hub location the IG examined. In Columbia, S.C., the IG deemed only 59 percent of actions untimely, the lowest percentage of all the hubs. Louisville again came in first place—at a rate of 100 percent—for failing to remedy misuse of funds in a timely manner.

    Summed up, the VBA only completed 77 percent of the actions necessary to restore misuse of funds. This means that the VBA did not restore $2.1 million of unused funds from January 1 to December 31, 2013, putting veterans, who often have to live on limited income, in a fiscally vulnerable place.

    This isn’t the first time the IG has looked into allegations of fiduciary abuse. In a previous investigation, inspectors found two fiduciaries who clearly misused funds. At the time of the investigation, the VBA had still refused to fire those two employees. They were still managing 48 beneficiaries.

    “Beneficiaries could face undue financial hardships if P&FS does not improve the timeliness of processing negligence determinations,” the inspector general noted. “One beneficiary’s approximately $16,200 in misused funds were not restored by VBA because the beneficiary passed away more than 9 months before P&FS completed their negligence determination.”

    Unless VBA acts now to turn itself around, the inspector general projected that it might mismanage $16 million every single year.

    Follow Jonah Bennett on Twitter


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