Today, Rep. Jeff Miller, Chairman of the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs, issued the following statement on the preliminary findings of a Department of Veterans Affairs Office of the Inspector General investigation:
"A week ago today, President Obama signed into law H.R. 1627, one provision of which instructs VA to report to Congress any conferences that cost more than $20,000.
"Yet, it has come to the attention of the Committee that investigations are underway regarding VA's authorization of approximately $9 million to hold a series of conferences last year in Florida. In preliminary findings, multiple planning trips to multiple destinations cost the taxpayers thousands of dollars, VA employees are reported to have received gifts, including alcohol, concert tickets, and spa treatments, and tens of thousands of dollars were spent on promotional items for attendees.
"In a twist of irony, a month before these conferences took place VA officials testified before the Committee that more stringent oversight regarding conference expenditures was unnecessary. According to VA's testimony, attempts to strengthen oversight of VA conferences would "impose burdensome notification and reporting requirements on the Department.' VA then went on to tout its existing process of checks and balances as sufficient. The legislation under debate that day is now law.
"If the results of the IG investigation are upheld, this represents an egregious misuse of funds meant to provide for the care of America's veterans. The Office of the Inspector General is continuing its investigation and I have authorized the Committee to offer its full assistance to the IG's office in determining the extent of these allegations, as well as to ensure that the new law is strictly enforced at VA."