VA Fiduciary Program Comes Under Fire

February 9, 2012

Washington, D.C.On Thursday, February 9, 2012, the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations held a hearing to assess the progress the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has made in implementing programmatic changes to the Fiduciary Program. 
“Today’s hearing provided us further insight into the VA Fiduciary Program.  During the hearing, witnesses discussed VA’s regulations and ongoing problems with the program.  The VA assured us they have taken solid steps to address their weaknesses to improve the Fiduciary Program and better provide veterans with the benefits they have earned,” stated Ranking Democratic Member Joe Donnelly (D-IN).
Although members of the Subcommittee raised questions over the misuse of funds by fiduciaries, Ranking Democratic Member of the Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs Jerry McNerney (D-CA) reminded Members that the “opportunity to address the reports of fraud committed by fiduciaries is important, and this Subcommittee should address those issues.  However, we should not generalize these claims because there are many fiduciaries doing the right thing, and who are successfully managing beneficiaries' VA funds.”
The Fiduciary Program has long come under scrutiny over its fiduciary appointment process and its fiduciary oversight procedures.  In April of 2010, the Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs held a hearing that led to VA taking steps to improve the management and oversight of the program.  VA also presented an outline to the Subcommittee of the remedial steps it is taking to improve the current regulations, policies, and procedures of its Fiduciary Program, admitting that this review is long overdue. 
Congressman McNerney expressed concern over the structure of the Fiduciary Program where expenditures must be approved by the VA.  “We simply must find a way to protect the interests of vulnerable veterans while ensuring that there is sufficient oversight of the program,” McNerney stated.
Congressman Bob Filner (D-CA), Ranking Democratic Member of the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, summarized many of the concerns raised:  “This hearing raised serious concerns that need immediate attention.  We must explore how best to provide veterans and their family members with a say in the process, make sure that the fiduciary has the necessary flexibility to assist the veteran, and ensure that there are adequate safeguards to protect veterans and their families.  At the end of the day, we want to help these veterans properly handle the benefits they have earned.  Currently, that is not what is happening.”