Veterans Affairs: Use of Additional Funding for COVID-19 Relief

What GAO Found

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) received $19.6 billion in supplemental funding—additional funding above the annual appropriation—in March 2020 to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. GAO’s analysis of VA data shows that through March 2021, VA had obligated $9.9 billion and expended $8.1 billion of the supplemental funding.

Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Reported Obligations and Expenditures of CARES Act and Families First Coronavirus Response Act Funding through March 2021

Note: An obligation is a definite commitment that creates a legal liability to pay, and an expenditure is the actual spending of money.

The majority of the obligated supplemental funding ($8.3 billion) was obligated by VA’s Veterans Health Administration (VHA) for care provided to veterans by non-VA providers, the additional costs of salaries (such as for overtime) and related expenses of VHA staff, supplies and materials, and support for homeless veterans, due to COVID-19 response. The remaining obligations included costs of VA’s transition to telehealth and telework during the COVID-19 pandemic, primarily through the Office of Information Technology (OIT). According to spend plan documents and department officials, VA plans to obligate its remaining $9.7 billion in funding on activities including COVID-19 testing, purchasing supplies and equipment, and distributing COVID-19 vaccines.

VA mainly relies on its standard financial management processes to oversee the use of supplemental funds, including establishing new versions of standard financial codes to account for and report on use of funds through VA’s financial system. VA also collected details about the use of supplemental funding, such as descriptions of the activities for which funds were obligated, that were not available in its financial system. In addition, the VA components that received the majority of the supplemental funding—VHA and OIT—set up additional processes and issued guidance specific to the use of supplemental funding, such as establishing councils to review funding requests.

Why GAO Did This Study

As of April 14, 2021, VA reported 224,538 cumulative veteran cases of COVID-19, and 11,366 deaths. The CARES Act and Families First Coronavirus Response Act included supplemental funding for COVID-19 relief, and the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021, permitted VA additional flexibility to transfer these funds across the department.

The CARES Act also included a provision for GAO to report on its ongoing monitoring and oversight efforts related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

This report examines 1) VA’s obligations and expenditures of COVID-19 supplemental funding, as well as its plans to obligate remaining funds, and 2) how VA oversees the use of COVID-19 supplemental funds.

GAO reviewed VA data on obligations, expenditures, and spend plans for COVID-19 supplemental funding, as well as contracting documentation and documentation on the processes and guidance VA developed to oversee the use of funds. GAO interviewed VA officials responsible for oversight of the supplemental funding, including officials from five regional networks, selected based on funding levels and geography, to gather information about their roles in overseeing the use of and accounting for supplemental funding.

VA reviewed a draft of this report and provided a technical comment, which was incorporated as appropriate.

For more information, contact Sharon M. Silas at (202) 512-7114 or silass@gao.gov.

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    Stein Agee of Canton, Georgia, and Corey Agee of Atlanta, Georgia, appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge W. Carleton Metcalf and pleaded guilty for their roles in a wide-ranging abusive tax scheme to defraud the IRS, announced United States Attorney R. Andrew Murray for the Western District of North Carolina, Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Richard E. Zuckerman of the Justice Department’s Tax Division, and Commissioner Charles Rettig of the IRS.
    [Read More…]
  • Justice Department Recognizes the 10th Annual Human Trafficking Prevention Month
    In Crime News
    The Department of Justice today commemorates the 10th annual National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month and declares a continued commitment to combatting human trafficking in all its forms. The fight against human trafficking remains one of the department’s highest priorities, and the department will remain relentless in its efforts to bring traffickers to justice and seek justice for survivors.
    [Read More…]
  • Supplement Retailers Plead Guilty in Cases Involving Distribution of Designer Steroids as Dietary Supplements
    In Crime News
    Two men and a California business each pleaded guilty this week to conspiring to distribute consumer products that contained designer anabolic steroids.
    [Read More…]
  • Abusive Tax Schemes: Offshore Insurance Products and Associated Compliance Risks
    In U.S GAO News
    Federal law provides certain tax benefits for transactions involving genuine insurance products, including insurance products held offshore. While taxpayers may lawfully hold offshore insurance products, they contain features that make them vulnerable for use in abusive tax schemes. For example, offshore insurance products can be highly technical and individualized, making enforcement challenging, according to Internal Revenue Service (IRS) officials. Furthermore, insurance is not defined by federal statute, potentially making a determination of what constitutes genuine insurance for federal tax purposes unclear. Offshore micro-captive insurance products, which are made by small insurance companies owned by the businesses they insure, may be abused if the corporate taxpayer improperly claims deductions for payments made to a micro-captive for federal tax purposes. Courts have applied certain considerations to determine whether these deductions can be claimed. For example, one consideration is whether the insurance legitimately distributes risk across participating entities. IRS officials said they expend significant resources reviewing these schemes because of the varied ways insurance companies may work. Offshore variable life insurance products, which are insurance policies with investment components over which the insured has certain control, may be abused if the individual taxpayer fails to meet IRS reporting requirements or pay appropriate federal income taxes. Federal regulations require that taxpayers with certain foreign life insurance accounts report this information to IRS and the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network. The structure of life insurance products may vary and taxpayers are required to pay taxes based on the underlying type of financial product the policy represents. The figure below shows how noncompliance may occur when taxpayers use life insurance and micro-captive insurance in abusive tax schemes. Abusive Use of Micro-captive and Life Insurance When structured in abusive ways, insurance products held offshore can be designed to aid in unlawful tax evasion by U.S. taxpayers. Two products that IRS has recently warned have the potential for such abuse include micro-captive insurance and variable life insurance policies. GAO was asked to review how taxpayers may abuse offshore insurance products. This report describes (1) how offshore insurance tax shelters provide opportunities for income tax abuse; (2) how offshore micro-captive insurance is used and how it is used in abusive tax schemes; and (3) how offshore variable life insurance is used and how it is used in abusive tax schemes. GAO reviewed IRS tax and information return forms, relevant U.S. case law and IRS guidance, academic and trade publications, and applicable statutes and regulations. GAO also interviewed IRS officials and professionals in the tax preparation and insurance industries. For more information, contact Jessica Lucas-Judy at (202) 512-9110 or LucasJudyJ@gao.gov.
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  • The United States Designates Houthi Militants
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Antony J. Blinken, [Read More…]
  • Man Sentenced to Prison for Sextorting Numerous Children Around the Country
    In Crime News
    A Virginia man was sentenced today to 31 years in prison for a years-long sextortion scheme in which he coerced numerous preteen and teenage victims to create and send him images of themselves engaged in sexually explicit conduct. The defendant was further sentenced to a lifetime of supervised release and ordered to pay restitution to the victims.
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  • Spain Travel Advisory
    In Travel
    Reconsider travel to [Read More…]