Veterans Health Administration--Appropriations for CARES Cost Comparison Studies
B-302973: Oct 6, 2004
- Full Report:
The prohibition in 38 U.S.C. 8110(a)(5) on using appropriations for "medical care, medical and prosthetic research, and medical administration and miscellaneous operating expenses" for the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) to conduct studies comparing the cost of the provision of commercial services and products by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) with that by private contractors applies to cost comparison studies conducted as part of VA's Capital Asset Realignment for Enhanced Services (CARES) process. It also prohibits the use of VHA employees to conduct such studies. The section 8110(a)(5) prohibition applies unless Congress includes an affirmative statement that it is appropriating VHA funds for that specific purpose. This conclusion is supported both by applying the plain meaning rule to section 8110(a)(5) and reviewing the provision's legislative history. If VA has used restricted VHA appropriations in fiscal year 2004 to conduct such studies in the absence of an express appropriation, then VA has violated section 8110(a)(5). It would also constitute a violation of the purpose statute, 31 U.S.C. 1301(a). If VA, after adjusting its accounts, were to have insufficient budget authority to cover all obligations incurred, then VA would have to report an Antideficiency Act violation.