House panel launches investigation of VA conferences in Las Vegas and Arizona

Andy Z./

Lawmaker questions the department’s decision to hire a contractor to analyze spending.

Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, said the committee is investigating Veterans Affairs Department conferences held at “great expense” in Las Vegas and Arizona in recent years. The committee previously disclosed it was investigating two 2011 conferences held in Orlando, Fla., at a cost of $5.3 million.

The VA inspector general is running a separate investigation of department conferences. Miller told Nextgov “I am urging the IG to finish their investigation in the next few weeks, and I hope the committee will be able to hold a hearing on this subject by the end of September.”

Nextgov reported Monday that VA held close to 1,000 conferences during the past three years and plans to hire a contractor to examine costs, policies and procedures governing conferences and travel regulations. The vendor is expected to analyze an unspecified number of randomly sampled conferences that took place from 2009 through 2011.

Miller, in a statement emailed to Nextgov, said, “not only is it odd that VA is calling for an outside contractor to investigate its conferences, but what is also disturbing is that VA has said that they have policies in place to police conference expenditures.”

He said the House committee “has asked repeatedly for this policy, but has yet to receive it, even though VA officials stated it has been in place for the last year.” Miller also questioned the costs the conference evaluation contract could incur.

“My other concern is how much money -- money set aside for veterans -- will be spent to tell us what we already know: VA overpaid for conferences for the last three years,” he said.

(Image via Andy Z./