Statement from the Acting VA Inspector General
Suggestions from the media and some Members of Congress that the OIG kept secret inappropriate scheduling practices at the Phoenix VA Health Care System are belied by nearly a decade of reporting by the Office of Inspector General. Read the Acting Inspector General’s statement; a chronology of OIG reporting, Keeping Congress and VA Secretary Informed: VA Office of Inspector General’s Reporting on Patient Wait Times from 2005-2014; and the 2008 memorandum of administrative investigation on altered wait times at the Phoenix VA Health Care System.
Review of Alleged Patient Deaths, Patient Wait Times, and Scheduling Practices at the Phoenix VA Health Care System
- Read this Report
- Questions and Answers on the most significant aspects of the OIG’s report.
- Acting Inspector General's Oral Statement and Written Statement delivered before the House Committee On Veterans’ Affairs, September 17, 2014.
- Acting Inspector General's response to media coverage of baseless allegations on independence and integrity of the report.
Mr. Chairman and Members of the Committee, thank you for the opportunity to discuss the Office of Inspector General’s (OIG) work regarding VA’s Office of Information and Technology’s (OIT) management of its information security programs. Our statement today focuses on VA’s effectiveness in implementing the configuration management controls, access controls, security management, and contingency planning necessary to protect its mission-critical systems from unauthorized access, alteration, or destruction. We base our conclusions on the OIG’s past and ongoing audits of VA’s information security program. We will also focus on the challenges VA faces overcoming several information security concerns not highlighted in previous years.
Review of Alleged Mismanagement of VA's Office of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs Outreach Contracts
We evaluated the merits of Hotline complaints that VA’s Office of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs (OPIA) awarded an outreach contract to Woodpile Studios, Inc., alleging that it yielded no apparent increase in the use of VA healthcare, benefits, or services by veterans and then planned to solicit new outreach contracts without evaluating the effectiveness of the prior contract. We substantiated the allegations regarding OPIA mismanagement of its outreach contracts. We confirmed that in July 2010, OPIA awarded a contract to Woodpile Studios, Inc. to provide support for outreach campaigns at an initial cost of $5.2 million. However, OPIA could not demonstrate that contract activities resulted in increased awareness of and access to VA healthcare, benefits, and services for veterans. We also confirmed that OPIA solicited significant new outreach service contracts without evaluating the effectiveness of the previous contract. OPIA management stated that leadership turnover contributed to ineffective oversight of the outreach contract management and solicitations. Consequently, Woodpile contractors performed functions that were inherently Governmental. Questionable use of a labor-hour order instead of a performance-based contract contributed to invoices for activities that did not clearly link to accomplishment of VA outreach goals. By awarding new contracts without first evaluating the performance of the prior Woodpile contract, OPIA continued to expend funds on questionable outreach activities. OPIA also lacked performance metrics to fully assess improvements in access to VA benefits and services for veterans. We recommended that the Assistant Secretary for the Office of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs ensure effective oversight of outreach contract management and prevent contractors from performing inherently Governmental tasks. The Assistant Secretary should also implement metrics to ensure the outreach campaigns improve veteran awareness and access to VA services. The Acting Assistant Secretary for the Office of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs concurred with our report recommendations and summarized corrective actions for our consideration. We will monitor implementation of the corrective action plans.
Office of Inspector General Department of Veterans Affairs Semiannual Report to Congress (SAR) April 1, 2014 - September 30, 2014
The Semiannual Report to Congress summarizes the results of OIG oversight, provides statistical information, and lists all reports issued April 1 – September 30, 2014. During this reporting period, OIG audits, investigations, inspections, evaluations, and other reviews identified nearly $1.59 billion in monetary benefits for a return of $31 for every dollar invested in OIG oversight. OIG issued 195 reports and 22 memoranda on VA programs and operations. OIG investigations led to 288 arrests, and OIG investigative work and Hotline activity oversight resulted in 587 administrative sanctions and corrective actions.
Audit of VHA's Support Service Contracts
In fiscal year (FY) 2012, the Office of Management and Budget stated Government spending for support service functions quadrupled over the past decade. Previous Office of Inspector General audits identified recurring systemic deficiencies in virtually all phases of the Veterans Health Administration’s (VHA) contracting processes. VHA’s support service contract costs increased 60 percent from approximately $503 million for about 5,100 contracts in FY 2012 to just over $805 million for about 4,700 support service contracts in FY 2013. We determined whether staff adequately developed, awarded, and monitored VHA support service contracts. We found VHA did not have effective internal controls or follow existing controls to ensure adequate development, award, monitoring, and documentation of support service contracts. Within our statistical sample of 95 support service contracts, we found 1 or more contract deficiencies in each. The contract deficiencies included insufficient documentation of key contract development and award decisions, assurance that paid invoice amounts were correct and funds were de-obligated following the contract completion, and a complete history of contract actions in VA’s mandatory Electronic Contract Management System. These deficiencies occurred because VHA management did not have an effective quality assurance program, Integrated Oversight Process reviews were not completed, and contracting officers did not delegate and meet with contracting officers’ representatives as required. If VHA does not take timely action to improve its support service contracting processes, we estimated it will inappropriately compete, award, and manage contract funds totaling $159 million annually or $795 million over the next 5 years through FY 2019. We recommended VHA improve their quality assurance and training programs, revise and complete Integrated Oversight Process reviews, objectively evaluate contracting officer’s performance, and ensure contracting officers’ representatives are delegated and met with quarterly. The Under Secretary for Health concurred with our recommendations and provided an acceptable action plan. We will follow up on the implementation of the corrective actions.
Chairman Runyan and Ranking Member Titus, thank you for the opportunity to discuss the results of the Office of Inspector General’s (OIG) work related to the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA). We will focus on previously issued reports regarding the Philadelphia VA Regional Office (VARO), as well as recent situations that have come to our attention through the VA OIG Hotline and directly from current and former VARO employees. I am accompanied today by Nora Stokes, Director, OIG Bay Pines Benefits Inspection Division; Al Tate, Audit Manager, Atlanta Audit Division; and Jeffrey Myers, Benefits Inspector, San Diego Benefits Inspection Division.