A big chunk of the $6.1 million that paid for two weeklong Veteran Affairs Department conferences at a Florida resort came from funds appropriated by Congress for veterans health care, a new report has found. The controversy has led to the resignation of one senior VA official and 11 others face potential disciplinary action.
“This sort of funny-money accounting must stop, and will no longer be tolerated, especially in today’s tight fiscal climate,” said Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla, House Veterans’ Affairs Committee chairman.
An Oct. 1 VA inspector general report found that more than $762,000 of the $6.1 million spent on the conferences could be considered excessive and wasteful. Expenses were covered by diverting money from other veterans programs and the Department of Health and Human Services.
The VA resort parties at the Orlando Marriott World Center Golf and Spa Resort in July and August 2011 ran up “unauthorized,” “unnecessary” or wasteful” expenses, and there was a lack of proper control over the money, the report found.
Excessive costs included almost $50,000 for videos and a personal appearance from an actor portraying the late Army Gen. George Patton, which the IG said did nothing to improve the conferences; $97,000 for promotional items given to attendees, including pedometers, water bottles, and duffel bags; and $280,000 in excess costs for food, beverages, and other miscellaneous expenses.