Many individuals receiving monthly compensation and pension benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) have mental impairments that prevent them from managing their finances. VA's Fiduciary Program selects and oversees third parties, called fiduciaries, to help manage and protect beneficiaries' funds. GAO examined (1) how effective program policies and procedures are in monitoring fiduciaries and safeguarding beneficiary assets, and (2) challenges VA faces in improving program performance and oversight. GAO reviewed program policies, analyzed a nationally representative random sample of case files, interviewed Central Office managers and staff, and conducted three site visits to Fiduciary Program offices which accounted for 25 percent of program beneficiaries. During these visits GAO interviewed regional office managers and staff and conducted 32 file reviews.
Recommendations for Executive Action
|Department of Veterans Affairs||1. To ensure that maximum efforts are made to safeguard beneficiary assets, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs should ensure that policies regarding file documentation, follow-up with fiduciaries for late financial reports, and bond acquisition are understood and carried out by staff. This might be accomplished by increasing standardized training for staff, clarifying certain policies, and improving management review and oversight.|
|Department of Veterans Affairs||2. To ensure that maximum efforts are made to safeguard beneficiary assets, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs should improve the policies for periodic on-site reviews of professional fiduciaries by taking additional actions such as: (1) requiring a unique identifier for all fiduciaries to better determine which professional fiduciaries meet the criteria to have on-site reviews; and (2) implementing a nationwide systematic quality review process to examine completed on-site review reports.|
|Department of Veterans Affairs||3. To ensure that maximum efforts are made to safeguard beneficiary assets, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs should evaluate alternative approaches to effectively and efficiently meet the electronic case management system needs of Fiduciary Program managers and staff. This could include developing or acquiring a replacement system or enhancing the existing system.|
|Department of Veterans Affairs||4. To ensure that maximum efforts are made to safeguard beneficiary assets, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs should move forward with developing a plan to systematically evaluate the extent to which the hub pilot project is addressing identified program weaknesses. This could include documenting lessons learned during implementation.|