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Federal Government Spending Fiasco in Our Veteran Affairs

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but here’s the truth: as taxpayers, we’re being ripped off. Time and time again, our hard-earned dollars are squandered, and the federal government is certainly not jumping to alleviate this issue.

Just look at the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA). Apparently, a heap of paperwork isn’t the only problem the VA is facing. After a VA review, the Veteran Employment Services Office (VESO) and the Office of Human Resources and Administration (HR&A) have come under fire for…you guessed it…wasting federal funds.

VESO was created in 2011 in order to increase veteran employment within the VA. According to the report, an interagency agreement led HR&A to support VESO in opening two call centers to support veterans seeking employment. Contractors originally estimated that the call centers would handle almost 2,200 calls each day. In reality, they handle an average of just 180 calls per day. And the call centers received so few calls over a 13-month period that more than 70 contract staff members received an average of only 2.4 calls a day. According to the review, “VESO’s average daily call volume projections significantly overstated actual average daily calls by more than 1,000%, or one call made or received for every 12 calls projected by VESO.”

Intentional Misuse of Funds

Yet the inefficiency of the federal agency doesn’t end there. The audit found that HR&A didn’t require VESO “to analyze veteran use of and demand for call center services before the terms of the [interagency agreement] were changed to expand services to provide 24/7 call centers.”

That’s right: VESO expanded the hours of operations for the call centers without even determining if there was a need to do so. But if VESO had completed an analysis of the call volume at both centers, they’d have recognized the need to “take timely action to realign its call center operations to better reflect actual veteran demand for services and to ensure a more effective use of funds.”

Which leads to the question of exactly how much funding is being wasted.

Well, the VA review estimates that the centers will cost more than $13 million through fiscal year 2015. And HR&A already approved almost $4.5 million on a one-year contract for HR support services that VESO has the ability to provide on its own. And if that’s not bad enough, the report even suggests that the call centers are duplicating “inherently governmental functions.”

Linda A. Halliday, Assistant Inspector General for Audits and Evaluations, is demanding corrective action: VESO resources “could be better used to provide employment services to veterans with greater efficiency and accountability. Without improving its controls, HR&A has little assurance that VESO’s acquisitions are justified, appropriately targeted, and will have the desired impact on veteran employment.”

Sadly, duplication and inefficiency aren’t exactly strangers in federal agencies like the Department of Veteran Affairs, USDA and Department of Education. As Sen. Tom Coburn puts it:

“Taxpayers are sending nearly a trillion dollars of their income to the Treasury every year, just to watch Congress waste it on thousands of programs that duplicate other federal, state, and private efforts and cannot demonstrate any measure of success. Despite promises from Washington politicians that government programs can solve every challenge—taxpayers are being ripped off.”

In pursuit of the truth,

Johnnie-Ann Campbell