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livvy Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Jan-24-09 12:02 PM
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GAO Says VA Still Underestimating Costs
GAO Says VA Still Underestimating Costs

By Hope Yen - The Associated Press
Posted : Saturday Jan 24, 2009 7:08:34 EST

WASHINGTON Two years after a politically embarrassing $1 billion shortfall that imperiled veterans health care, the Veterans Affairs Department is still lowballing budget estimates to Congress to keep its spending down, government investigators say.

The report by the Government Accountability Office, set to be released later Friday, highlights the Bush administrations problems in planning for the treatment of veterans that President Barack Obama has pledged to fix. It found the VAs long-term budget plan for the rehabilitation of veterans in nursing homes, hospices and community centers to be flawed, failing to account for tens of thousands of patients and understating costs by millions of dollars.

In its strategic plan covering 2007 to 2013, the VA inflated the number of veterans it would treat at hospices and community centers based on a questionably low budget, the investigators concluded. At the same time, they said, the VA didnt account for roughly 25,000 or nearly three-quarters of its patients who receive treatment at nursing homes operated by the VA and state governments each year.

VAs use, without explanation, of cost assumptions and a workload projection that appear unrealistic raises questions about both the reliability of VAs spending estimates and the extent to which VA is closing previously identified gaps in noninstitutional long-term care services, according to the 34-page draft report obtained by The Associated Press.

Lawmakers expressed anger, saying they will be watching for new VA Secretary Eric Shinseki to provide a more honest accounting.

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