Federal Manager's Daily Report

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An inspector general audit has identified waste in a program designed to provide homeless veterans with mobile devices they could use for telehealth – as many of the devices sat for months in storage as their data plans expired.

The report said that using money from one of the pandemic relief laws, the VA in 2020 purchased 10,000 iPhones and nearly 81,000 iPads, at a total cost of some $71 million, to be distributed to veterans participating in a joint VA-HUD program for the homeless.

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The devices came with 12-month unrestricted data plans whose periods started running as of the date of delivery. However, demand for the phones “was much lower than anticipated” and more than 8,500 of the phones remained in storage more than 240 days, resulting in a waste of some $1.8 million in wasted data plan costs.

The same issue arose regarding the iPads although on a lesser scale, with those items remaining in storage an average of 33 days—with nearly a tenth waiting more than 90 days—resulting in nearly $600,000 in wasted data plan costs.

VA management agreed with the IG’s recommendations to “establish a realistic goal for days in storage along with a process for closely monitoring days in storage” and to “determine whether a new process can be implemented that initiates the data plan charges when a device is issued to the veteran.”

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