More Than $50M in VA Mental Health Funds Unspent
The Department of Veterans Affairs did not fully spend $300 million allocated over two years to improve awareness of VA mental health programs and provide better access to care for veterans with serious mental illnesses, according to a Government Accountability Office report released Thursday, McClatchy/Philadelphia Inquirer reports. The GAO report finds that the VA spent only $53 million of $100 million it planned to spend during fiscal year 2005 on a strategic mental health plan.
The department sent $35 million to a VA general fund, where the money can be spent on a number of different programs. According to the report, "It is likely that some of these funds were not used" as intended. Findings also show that hospital and health care officials did not know that the $35 million was available and were "unaware that any specific portion of their general allocation was to be used for mental health strategic plan initiatives" (Goldstein, McClatchy/Philadelphia Inquirer, 9/29).
In addition, some of the money allocated to the general fund went toward routine mental health programs, according to GAO. The department did not spend $12 million of FY 2005 funding, and of the $200 million VA had budgeted for FY 2006, $42 million remains unspent (Goldstein, Kansas City Star, 9/29).
Rep. Henry Brown (R-S.C.) during a House Veterans Affairs subcommittee hearing on Thursday said, "We will exercise greater oversight on this issue now to determine what VA is spending and how it is being spent, to ensure that funds allocated by the American people are used as intended" (Goldstein, MCT/San Diego Union-Tribune, 9/29).