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The “Use it or Lose it” Mentality: Military Connection

Military Connection: dollars

By Debbie Gregory.

If you had millions of dollars in an account, would you need an auditor to remind you that you had it?

It seems that the Veterans Health Administration “parked,” (and then seemed to forget about) more than $43 million at the Government Printing Office over three years ago. “Parking” refers to the transfer of funds to a revolving fund through an intra-agency agreement, in an attempt to keep the funds available for new work after the period of availability for the funds expires.

The Department of Veterans Affairs had set aside the funds to produce “tailored handbooks.” These handbooks were supposed to provide veterans with information about VA benefits, though they were never made. In fact, the authorizations never specified the quantity of handbooks to be produced or the dates for delivery.

There was a surplus of funds to cover the costs of the handbooks, but the funds sat in an account until an agency financial manager happened to notice.

Money budgeted for one account is not supposed to be spent for other needs without congressional approval.

The Inspector General’s office cited a “breakdown of fiscal controls” and “lack of oversight” in concluding that VA officials had “no need” for the $43.1 million. At least not for the purpose they claimed

“A breakdown of VA fiscal controls and a lack of oversight led to the parking of funds for an excessively long period and the failure to detect and properly use and manage these funds,” auditors wrote in their June 17 report. They cited a “lack of supervisory review” to ensure that the money was spent properly.

The VHA, it turned out, had “no current need” for the money and wanted to save it for another year, a strategy that’s considered poor financial policy.

The biannual handbooks provide each veteran with information about his or her health benefits and other services. They list contacts for the veteran’s preferred clinic, instructions on how to schedule appointments, information on the Affordable Care Act, any co-pays and other information. VA officials are now looking at whether they have any unpaid bills for fiscal 2011 they can use the money for. If not, it must be returned to the Treasury, auditors said.

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The “Use it or Lose it” Mentality: Military Connection: by Debbie Gregory