Report Summary

Title: Audit of VBA’s Automated Burial Payments
Report Number: 15-01436-456 Download
Issue Date: 2/8/2017
VA Office: Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA)
Report Author: Office of Audits and Evaluations
Report Type: Audit
Release Type: Unrestricted

In October 2014, OIG received an allegation that VBA’s automated burial benefits system was authorizing improper burial payments. We evaluated the effectiveness of VBA controls ensuring proper automated burial payments. VBA controls ensured that the majority of automated burial payments were made to living spouses for deceased veterans in accordance with the CFR. However, controls did not consistently ensure proper automated burial payments. We found VBA improperly authorized 4,525 of 16,406 automated burial payments (about $2.8 million) from August 2014 through January 2015, including payments to spouses who weren’t on veterans’ records at the date of death or who were deceased, multiple payments, and payments to veterans who were still living. This occurred because VBA lacked controls, policies, procedures, and sufficient quality assurance reviews. If VBA does not implement adequate controls, we estimated VBA will continue authorizing improper automated burial payments of about $5.6 million annually and approximately $28 million over the next five years. VBA improperly discontinued 68 living veterans’ monthly disability benefit payments totaling $190,267 because VBA had erroneously recorded the veterans as deceased, possibly causing financial hardship to veterans and their families. We recommended the Principal Deputy Under Secretary for Benefits, Performing the Duties of Under Secretary for Benefits, review the improper payments identified during our audit, take appropriate corrective actions when warranted and strengthen burial payment controls. We also recommended he initiate actions to ensure policies and procedures are consistent with CFR and perform quality assurance reviews. The Principal Deputy Under Secretary for Benefits concurred with four of five recommendations and provided acceptable corrective actions plans, but didn’t agree to enforce the requirement that proof of death be submitted prior to the release of automated burial payments. He also provided additional comments, which we addressed in this report.