Report Summary

Title: VBA’s Fiduciary Program Needs to Improve the Timeliness of Determinations and Reimbursements of Misused Funds
Report Number: 20-00433-168 Download
Issue Date: 7/21/2021
VA Office: Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA)
Report Author: Office of Audits and Evaluations
Report Type: Review
Release Type: Unrestricted

The purpose of the VA Fiduciary Program is to protect beneficiaries who are unable to manage their VA benefits as a result of injury, disease, advanced age, or because they are under age 18. The Veterans Benefits Administration’s (VBA) Pension and Fiduciary Service administers the program through six fiduciary offices called “hubs.” The OIG examined whether program staff properly addressed allegations of benefit payments being misused and then reimbursed beneficiaries as required.

Program staff initiated inquiries into approximately 12,000 allegations of misuse from January 1, 2018, through September 30, 2019. The OIG team assessed staff actions for 40 misuse determinations and did not find systemic issues. However, the team found instances of significant wait times for program staff to determine misuse and negligence and to reimburse misused funds. For example, one beneficiary waited 19 months after an initial determination of misuse before staff completed a negligence determination.VA then reimbursed the beneficiary over $20,000 in misused funds. Another beneficiary waited 14 months after the misuse determination before staff reimbursed approximately $5,800. VBA should consider whether the average number of days taken to complete each type of misuse action is acceptable to meet oversight responsibilities and fulfill the stated mission of protecting vulnerable veterans and other beneficiaries.

The team also found that VBA did not adequately monitor all follow-up actions on reported misuse. VBA was unaware of unprocessed negligence determinations from 2016 and 2017 that the team identified. Additionally, the team examined the workload management plans and systematic analysis of operations for the two fiduciary hubs visited, but none of the documents discussed or identified pending reimbursements.

The OIG made two recommendations to VBA to ensure prompt completion of determinations and reimbursements after December 31, 2017.