- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Vets aren’t the only ones facing a daunting backlog at the Veterans Affairs Department. The agency’s maintenance plans are also behind schedule and over budget according to an internal report released Wednesday.

In fact, the non-recurring maintenance (NRM) program designed to refurbish hospitals and improve medical centers is being buried under $10.7 billion worth of work that still has yet to be done.

According to the agency’s inspector general, half of all projects are more than a year behind schedule.

“VA medical facilities’ aging infrastructure poses risks to patient safety and access to care,” the IG said, making it essential that officials “identify critical deficiencies and ensure that the NRM program fulfills its purpose of ensuring that VA’s infrastructure is safe and efficient.”

The agency has been increasing the funding it puts towards the maintenance, but the $1.8 billion it spent last year is only covering a small portion of repairs, the IG said. And it doesn’t help that investigators think the repair costs at all facilities could actually be $12.3 billion higher than VA originally estimated.

Investigators also chastised VA leaders for not keeping a close eye on the program.

Without better oversight, the agency “does not know whether they are addressing their highest priority needs or if they will achieve their performance goals,” the report said.

VA officials said they would follow the IG’s suggestions and better track how medical facilities are spending the maintenance money, as well as scrutinizing why some projects are taking so long to complete.