Tester Grills Veterans’ Affairs Officials over High-Risk Report from Congressional Watchdog

Report Finds VA on List of Agencies Prone to Waste or Mismanagement

(U.S. Senate) -Ranking Member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee Jon Tester today called on the VA to address the systemic challenges in providing care to veterans following the VA health care program’s continued placement on a list of “high risk” agencies.

The Government Accountability Office’s “High Risk List” is issued every two years and highlights agencies that are prone to fraud, waste, or mismanagement of taxpayer money. This is the second time it has included the VA’s health care program.

“The fact that the VA hasn’t fully met the action plan for getting off the list is worrisome,” said Tester. “On behalf of Montana veterans and taxpayers, the VA has to do better. I will hold everyone at the VA accountable for this – from Secretary Shulkin down to the new VA Montana leadership team at Fort Harrison.”

Tester questioned VA officials on the agency’s inability to meet watchdog recommendations and how those recommendations may have helped avoid the delays in care reported last week at Fort Harrison.

Tester spoke with VA Secretary David Shulkin following the report’s release and urged him to prioritize addressing the issues raised in the report.

“This is a perfect example of why it is critical for the VA to take these recommendations seriously,” said Tester. “Inaction has real-world consequences – and it is simply unacceptable. I expect much more from the VA moving forward.”

The report is generated by the Government Accountability Office, an independent and non-partisan watchdog organization that studies how efficiently the government is using taxpayer money.

The Government Accountability Office identified high-risk areas at the VA that include ambiguous policies, outdated IT systems, and inadequate accountability measures and training for staff that can result in delays for veterans trying to access care or receive their benefits.

Tester expressed his concern that veterans will be the ones to suffer from the VA’s performance in these areas. He urged VA officials to work closely with the Government Accountability Office to ensure that they are proactively addressing each area of concern.

To get off the list, the VA must address management inefficiencies, implement an action plan to address the issue areas of concern, and demonstrate that it is meeting the action plan’s goals. Despite introducing an action plan, the VA has not hit any clear milestones of improvement.

More information regarding the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee hearing about the GAO’s High Risk List and the Veterans Health Administration can be found online HERE.