For instance, the department applied $66 million in savings to the upcoming budget based on the results in previous fiscal years of a property management savings initiative.
“If VA's projected savings are overstated, the department may not be able to offset other costs in the fiscal year 2012 and 2013 budgets as it had originally intended,” according to the GAO report. “As a result, it may have to make difficult trade-offs to provide health care services with the resources provided by Congress.”
Such previous overestimates of budget savings have necessitated Congress approving emergency supplement funding.
Officials with the VA disputed the GAO's conclusions and justified the application of past savings by noting that the department did not account for those savings within the budget for the fiscal year in which they occurred.
However, VA officials agreed with other GAO recommendations, such as dropping projected savings from its employee telework initiative. The VA also agreed to develop a detailed tracking process to identify any savings from its initiative to use less costly healthcare providers.
The report was requested by Democratic leaders on Congress' VA oversight committees.