The VA Office of Inspector General (OIG) conducted this review to determine whether the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) accurately adjusted compensation and pension benefit payments for fugitive felons as mandated by law. If VBA does not adjust payments, veterans who are fugitive felons will continue to receive benefits during periods of ineligibility.
Routinely, the OIG provides VBA with a list of individuals with felony arrest warrants gathered from federal and local law enforcement agencies. After the passage of the Veterans Education and Benefits Expansion Act of 2001, VBA interpreted the law to presume that all veterans for whom a felony arrest warrant had been issued were fugitives in a flight status.
In April 2012, VBA instructed regional offices to postpone making decisions on fugitive felon cases while it prepared new guidance. During 2012 and 2013, VBA did not process fugitive felon cases. In June 2014, VBA updated its definition of a fugitive felon to include only referrals indicating escape, flight, or violation of the conditions of probation or parole. Although VBA then resumed adjusting payments, it did not review the unprocessed 2012 and 2013 cases.
In addition, due to inadequate monitoring, VBA did not process about 46 percent of cases referred by the OIG in 2019 and 2020. Finally, the team found VBA’s notification letters to veterans providing notice of the proposed action and right to a hearing did not always provide the required information. Most commonly, VBA failed to include the reason for the issuance of the arrest warrant.
VBA concurred with the OIG’s three recommendations to (1) improve monitoring procedures, (2) review unprocessed felony referrals, and (3) update fugitive felon letters with required information. Based on the information provided by VBA on the actions taken to address these recommendations, the OIG considers recommendation 2 closed.