Report Summary

Title: Audit of VHA's Alleged Beneficiary Travel Processing Irregularities at the VAMC in Phoenix, Arizona
Report Number: 16-00471-10 Download
Issue Date: 12/13/2017
City/State: Phoenix, AZ
VA Office: Veterans Health Administration (VHA)
Report Author: Office of Audits and Evaluations
Report Type: Audit Report
Release Type: Unrestricted

In response to a hotline compliant, OIG reviewed allegations the Carl T. Harden VA Medical Center (VAMC) in Phoenix, AZ did not consistently process beneficiary travel mileage claims. In response, the OIG determined whether the VAMC reimbursed beneficiaries more than once for the same travel, approved travel mileage claims using Post Office Boxes instead of physical addresses and reimbursed beneficiaries primarily through cash or check and not electronic funds transfer (EFT).

We did not substantiate the allegation that VAMC staff improperly reimbursed beneficiaries more than once for the same travel. Although we did not substantiate the allegation, we observed the VAMC did not have written procedures requiring staff to perform actions when automated controls alerted them of potential duplicate claims and payments.

Although we determined it was not a widespread issue, we substantiated the allegation that VAMC staff inappropriately approved beneficiary travel mileage claims using Post Office Boxes as beneficiaries’ departure addresses instead of physical addresses, which violated policy. We found this occurred because the VAMC lacked a local quality review program to ensure staff document and use physical addresses when calculating mileage reimbursements.

We substantiated the allegation that VAMC staff unnecessarily reimbursed most beneficiary travel in cash, rather than by EFT. However, the VAMC Director, appointed in December 2015, supported the facility's adoption of cash reduction goals and approved a plan to advance those measures soon after her appointment. Accordingly, VAMC staff have been implementing this plan, which has resulted in a significant reduction of the VAMC’s percentage of cash payments. Because we confirmed significant actions have been taken, we did not make any recommendations for this area.

We made two recommendations. The VAMC Director concurred with our recommendations, and we will perform follow-up on corrective action implementation.