NORTHAMPTON, Mass. (WWLP) - We paid for it and they lost it. The 22News I-Team uncovered nearly $1 million worth of items missing from the Veterans Affairs healthcare system.
The I-Team went through hundreds of pages of the central-western Massachusetts V.A.'s personal lost and found. Is it poor record keeping or government waste?
From a $10 calculator to a $12,000 bed. Dozens of cell phones, pagers and printers unaccounted for. Careless employees or bad inventory?
The 22News I-Team reviewed hundreds of pages of reported missing items from the Veterans Affairs Central-Western Massachusetts Healthcare system from 2010-2016. We found missing window air conditioning units ($571), fax machines ($960), even televisions, washing machines, dishwashers and ovens. Plus prescription drugs like oxycodone.
The total amount of lost or unaccounted for items is more than $908,000. *(The V-A disputes this figure and says it is in the $800,000 range.)
(How much of that goes back on the taxpayer?)
“We have a very small number that would actually be considered lost,” said Bowser.
Andre Bowser is the Veterans Affairs public affairs officer for central-western Massachusetts
(Is anyone held accountable when something disappears or makes this list?)
“If something disappears and we're reaching out to our local police and an investigation is done. By in large when you're talking about a refrigerator no one is walking away with that,” said Bowser.
When we questioned the V.A. about these missing or unaccounted for items, they denied having a major theft problem.
“Could there be instances of theft, I'm quite sure there are instances of theft in various organizations but as soon as you see that theft occurring you're going to report that to the police,” said Bowser.
The I-Team discovered that 131 police reports were filed in those seven years, for a total of $75,111.68 in lost or stolen items.
When something disappears it rarely gets found, but it almost always gets replaced.
“Our organization is going to ensure that our employees have the proper equipment and resources they need if something gets damaged in the line of work we're going to replace it so that they can do their job,” said Bowser.
In 2012, the VA hired an equipment manager, in 2014 the VA created an entire department that tracks this equipment.