Congress Probes VA’s Finances

Agency once again in hot water for questionable spending practices. 

A million dollars misspent here, a million dollars misdirected there – that’s a lot of money spent that should have been used helping our Veterans.

Based on news reports the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) continues to earn an unfortunate reputation as an irresponsible spender in some areas:

  • The Hill reported  that Congress subpoenaed VA Secretary Eric Shinseki for more information about two week-long conferences that cost the agency more than $6 million dollars.
  • Last October the head of human resources for the VA resigned after a 142 page VA Office of the Inspector General report confirmed $762,000 in “unauthorized, unnecessary, and/or wasteful expenses” during two conferences held in Orlando, Florida.
  • In July the department spend a whopping $2 million dollars on advertising on Facebook. That’s a lot.

In response to the media coverage about Facebook spending Brandon Friedman, VA’s former online communications director until August 2012, told Nextgov how a large portion of VA’s ad buys were paid for by Make the Connectionan outlier among VA divisions, most of which have only spent a few thousand dollars on Facebook ads. Friedman said the vast majority of VA’s questionable Facebook ad spending occurred after the agency learned of a change to Facebook’s algorithm that resulted in posts from organizations that didn’t purchase ads appearing in fewer of their followers’ newsfeeds. 

That’s about $1.00 for each “like” of VA’s main Facebook page (300,000) as well as VA’s Make the Connection page (1.6 million).

The worst part is that all of VA’s spending is taking place while 800,000 wounded, injured, and ill veterans wait more than one year for VA to complete a decision on a disability benefit claim. What are VA’s priorities? Are they Facebook “likes” and favorable press coverage rather than accurate and timely claims processing?

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