Report: VA Mental Health Spending Slow
The Department of Veterans Affairs has spent $200 million of the $300 million allocated in its fiscal year 2005-2006 budget for veterans' mental health care, and some funds might not have been used for mental health programs because of inefficient tracking methods, according to a Government Accountability Office report released Monday, USA Today reports. The $300 million budget was drawn in response to a 2004 VA plan to improve early assistance for veterans returning from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan who have combat stress, mental health treatment programs for female veterans and programs for veterans with serious mental illnesses.
According to the report, VA had little or no way of tracking spending on new mental health initiatives from 2005 through 2006, and some money might not have been used for mental health programs. The report said the agency is too slow in funding mental health programs for veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.
Rep. Mike Michaud (D-Maine), ranking Democrat for a Veterans Health subcommittee, in a letter to VA Secretary Jim Nicholson wrote, "Without the commitment to fully fund the mental health care proposals, ... improvements in VA's mental health services will not be achieved."
VA spokesperson Matt Burns said, "Unfortunately, the GAO chose to look at the plan as an accounting exercise, focusing primarily on how many dollars are spent." Burns added that VA spent money only on programs that met the agency's standards.
According to GAO, VA officials planned to place at least some of the unspent money in a reserve for 2007 (Zoroya, USA Today, 12/5).