VA accounting questioned after conference investigation

VA accounting questioned after conference investigation

The chairman and ranking members of the House Veterans Affairs Committee are demanding a complete accounting of where and how the Department of Veterans Affairs has spent money on employee conferences since 2009.

The latest demand comes as the committee’s senior members released additional information gleaned from a preliminary VA Inspector General’s report on two Orlando, Fla., conferences held for VA human resources employees in 2011.

Among the findings, the VA spent $52,000 producing two 8-minute videos in which an actor portraying Army Gen. George Patton laid out the role of VA human resources personnel and exhorted them to meet their mission. A shortened version of the video is available below.


The department also spent $84,000 on VA-branded promotion items, including up to $25,000 for pens, highlighters, post-it notes and hand sanitizers.

Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., and Rep. Bob Filner, D-Calif., want three years worth of data because they say past VA testimony on conference costs has been contradictory, ranging from $20 million in both 2011 and 2012, to $100 million.

In an Aug. 16 letter to VA Secretary Eric Shinseki, they wrote the testimony suggests the VA may not have any reliable data on conference expenditures, which calls into question whether the department’s financial controls “ever existed, whether they exist now, and who should be held accountable.”

The congressmen earlier this month blasted the VA when they revealed, based on the IG findings, that the department spent anywhere from $3 million to $9 million on employee conferences in Orland, Fla.

The IG report noted that the conferences themselves were for legitimate training purposes, but that employees received improper gratuities of alcohol, gift baskets, concert tickets, embroidered pillow cases, spa treatments, stretch limo transportation and even helicopter rides.

“If the results of the IG investigation are upheld, this represents an egregious misuse of funds meant to provide for the care of America’s veterans,” Miller said at the time.

In their Aug. 16 letter to Shinseki, Miller and Filner cited prior testimony indicating that about $20 million was budgeted in 2011 and again in 2012 for conferences, but noted that the VA’s chief financial officer said 2011 conferences costs were “a little over $100 million.”

Even if the lower amount is accurate, Miller and Filner said, “it raises the questions about the propriety of the HR conferences in Orlando consuming anywhere from 25 to 45 percent of the VA’s entire conference budget for the year.”

The apparent over-the-top spending and allegations of employees improperly receiving gifts come as Congress has criticized the VA for failing to address veterans’ disability claims or get veterans medical care in a timely fashion. Some veterans have reported waiting more than two years for their claims to be processed by the VA.

Shinseki said in a statement after the IG preliminary findings were made public, the actions alleged in the report were “unacceptable” and he vowed to hold accountable anyone who misused taxpayer funds or violated the department’s standards of conduct.

He also said the VA had already stripped purchasing authority from employees in the work unit under investigation, and that there would be an independent review of all training policies and procedures, as well as of scheduled training conferences. Those are to be completed by mid-November.

All VA personnel involved with the planning and carrying out training conferences and with the recertification of contract specialists will also be required to undergo ethics training, Shinseki said.

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OMFG, ROFL and any other acronym that can portray shock and humor at how these F-ing morons can expect to get away with this and yet do. up to 100 million? WTF? I mean seriously…no SERIOUSLY what the hell is going on.…even 309 million is bloody outrageous…a conference come on Even if Ozzy Osborn played at them it shouldn’t be that high. I mean what are they doing handing out prostitutes like gift bags? Or giving each person attending a car? I mean Oprah’s last few shows where she gave away a car to each person in the audience wasn’t that expensive. No SERIOUSLY this is worthy of someones no…many someones heads rolling literally out of the guillotine. Think of how many hero’s have given their lives or lost a limb or had a brain injury.….…do they deserve this? And we wonder why our veterans are treated like shit!! Yes I am swearing and may be censored but this is ridiculous. Do they think the public won’t be outraged about this?

“even 3–9 million”

I don’t normally agree with anyone about much of anything but I believe you said it perfectly Sir. Well said!

This is a PROBLEm through ou the administration, more government employees have mis-spent our tax money. I am really concerned about this waste, the VA supposed to be taking care of VETs, not partying in Florida and making movies???

There’s a lot more that needs looking into at the VA, especially how easy it is for people to scam their system and get disability pay for things that had nothing to do with their military service. I want the folks who really did get hurt while on duty to be taken care of but I want the scammers sent packing.

How about replacing all of them starting with Shinisky and below, it is the ONLY way to stop this. It is like a unit with bad morale, cutting one is never enough, come on LEADERS!

I worked for the VA for 20+ years. Never in my llife have I seen such mismanagement as I have seen in the government except the VA. They are currently a big joke about their IT Systems and the management of these systems. They hire someone off of the street that has a MicroSoft Cert. and bypass someone with a degress. Also if you have the cert you come in as a GS 12 or 13 or 14. Whatever happened from growth from within???

shamefull, and disgusting. many of these people portrayed are retired military. taking advantage of your fellow brothers and sisters in combat. hanging is too good for you!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!.

Im Sorry but why do they need to buy pens wih the VA Logo on it they have a very select audience, we all know they are there I dont need pens and markers to remind me they are there and what a joke a conference they shoud be happy to have a job and a job alot of them do piss poorly, i think they need classes on customer service and how to appreciate what all of us have done for this nation and that if it was not for us they would not have thier cushy government job.

How long will it take to clean this mess up; a year or two? After the election, Ha Ha Ha…Once the crooks have taken over, it takes years to clean house. By then, Veterans have passed on and the backlog of claims have leveled out and all is forgotten. The crooks are still entrenched and stealing as usual and life goes on. If they do get rid of a few crooks, they will get a hefty bonus anyway, so they live happy ever after. Those are the reasons why nothing will be done.

+800,000 VA claims backlog, 40% homeless are veterans,45,000 casulties from ten years of war, +8000 female casualties, thousands of PTSD cases, disgusting behavior…as a honorable man and patriot Gen Shinseki should resign on principle.

It took me several years to get my disability and to have spent millions of dollars on a conference, that is inexcusible. I know a VETERAN right now that was diagnosed with parkinsons disease. He has been waiting over a year to hear something from the VA. The VA can spend money on conferences but can’t get a VETERANS claim in a timely manner. If it were up to me everyone involved in the conference would never have a government job THANK YOU

Hire nothing but dsabled vets to run the VA.Have them take a oath to serve the disabled vets foemost . Get rid of the current establishment. Most of these problems would be fixed. Vets would get jobs, these boondoggles would stop because it would be to much of a hardship for Diabled Vets to go to these conferences etc. And the turkeys left would see what it is to be disabled. Seemingly it takes Vets to look after vets,in its purest form. They served there country and only ask for honesty and and a chance to work for the country they gave so much for. The nation can’t forget these people,list we decay from within. How a country treats its Vets is a Moral obligation, and a symbal of the future of the nation. The current creed sems to be give s little as possible so that we the establisment can and do boondoggle on Veterans backs. Namvet

Dear Kevin 80% of VA employees are prior military, half of which retired from one branch or another, they all learned their skills from the very people who gave you orders and required your sacrifices. This is just a reflection of what is wrong with this country today, greed and a sense of entitlement for past contributions. This situation will get much worse as federal budgets are cut deeper. Quality of leadership will suffer, agencies will have to do more with less assets available, talented people with vital skills will depart for greener pastures. Problems will be attempted to be solved by smoke and mirrors with no accountability, welcome to the “brave new world”.

Thank you, you said everything I felt like saying.
A retired veteran, still waiting for his increase in his compinsation check.

What a complete and utter mess. They should get someone to account for all the expenses spent splurging and have those responsible pay back every single cent.

So much for military efficiency. Maybe they should teach more comprehensive accounting at the military academy and use proper software to avoid mistakes like this in the future.

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