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VA Philippines Office: Maintain Operations, but More Information Needed to Determine Future Presence.

GAO-12-20R October 27, 2011

The Department of Veterans Affairs Veterans Affairs is a term of the business that deals with the relation between a government and its veteran communities, usually administered by the designated government agency.  (VA) operates a regional office in the Republic of the Philippines--the only one of its 57 regional offices that is located in a foreign country. Over the last two decades, Congress has periodically reauthorized the office for an average of 3 years each time. The Philippines was a U.S. territory prior to World War II and was granted independence in 1946. Congress authorized limited benefits for Filipino veterans who served under the command of the United States United States, officially United States of America, republic (2005 est. pop. 295,734,000), 3,539,227 sq mi (9,166,598 sq km), North America. The United States is the world's third largest country in population and the fourth largest country in area.  during the war, and authorized VA to operate a regional office to administer these benefits. In 1958, the office expanded to include an outpatient health clinic. VA estimates that about 18,000 Filipino WWII WWII
abbr.
World War II


WWII World War Two
 veterans were alive as of 2010, down from an estimated 452,000 in 1977. In light of this declining population eligible for benefits, maintaining the office may no longer be warranted at some point. Public Law 111-275 extended the authority for VA to operate this office until December 31, 2011, and directed GAO to submit this report. Our objectives are to (1) describe the primary activities undertaken by the VA regional office in the Philippines, and (2) identify the estimated costs and benefits of maintaining this office in its current location versus moving its activities to the U.S.

The VA Philippines office processes disability compensation, and survivor, pension and other VA benefits for all Filipino WWII veterans and dependents, as well as for U.S. veterans and dependents living in the Philippines. In fiscal year 2010, the office processed $187 million in compensation and pension benefits for both Filipino and U.S. veterans. According to according to
prep.
1. As stated or indicated by; on the authority of: according to historians.

2. In keeping with: according to instructions.

3.
 VA officials, in order to combat high levels of fraud the office staff use a variety of methods, including using photographs and interviews to determine identity, verifying claims using forensic Belonging to courts of justice.


forensic 1) adj. from Latin forensis for "belonging to the forum," ancient Rome's site for public debate, and currently meaning pertaining to the courts.
 analysis, and using WWII Japanese records to determine whether a Filipino WWII veteran collaborated with the enemy during the war. The Philippines office also provides medical exams through its outpatient clinic to support compensation and pension claims and provides other health care services for U.S. veterans. In fiscal year 2010, about 4,600 veterans made almost 24,000 visits to the clinic, which serves primarily U.S. veterans; Filipino WWII veterans are not eligible for services other than compensation and pension exams, and no dependents are eligible for these services. VA staff also process SSA (Serial Storage Architecture) A fault tolerant peripheral interface from IBM that transfers data at 80 and 160 Mbytes/sec. SSA uses SCSI commands, allowing existing software to drive SSA peripherals, which are typically disk drives.  benefits for individuals--which includes veterans and nonveterans--living in the Philippines and 41 other countries throughout the East Asia East Asia

A region of Asia coextensive with the Far East.



East Asian adj. & n.
 Pacific region. Currently, the benefits of maintaining the Philippines office likely outweigh out·weigh  
tr.v. out·weighed, out·weigh·ing, out·weighs
1. To weigh more than.

2. To be more significant than; exceed in value or importance: The benefits outweigh the risks.
 its costs; however, more information will be needed to determine the need for its continued presence in the future. Financial savings from lower personnel costs and fraud detection efforts currently offset or lower some of the office's operating costs operating costs nplgastos mpl operacionales . The cost of processing VA benefits in the Philippines office is about $5.1 million per year. However, VA estimates that the personnel cost is about $5.5 million less than it would be in the U.S. because most employees in the Philippines office are local staff who are paid substantially less than staff would be paid in the U.S. In addition, VA estimated that this office recently prevented over $4 million in fraudulent The description of a willful act commenced with the Specific Intent to deceive or cheat, in order to cause some financial detriment to another and to engender personal financial gain.  payments through fraud prevention and investigation. The operating cost for the outpatient clinic was $10.1 million in fiscal year 2010. VA has not estimated the costs or savings that would occur if the outpatient clinic were closed and/or some of its health services health services Managed care The benefits covered under a health contract  were administered from the United States, such as through VA's Foreign Medical Program. According to VA, there are cost savings associated with completing the compensation and pension exams in-house by VA rather than having the exams completed by Philippine private sector physicians because this sector is known for pervasive fraud. Beyond financial savings, other benefits of the Philippines office support its presence in the short-term. VA has not developed information that would help decide the status of the office in the future, such as projections of the number of veterans and dependents in the Philippines and their future impact on office workloads. Other factors to consider in maintaining or closing the office include the capacity to investigate fraud, the impact on services to veterans in the Philippines, and geopolitical ge·o·pol·i·tics  
n. (used with a sing. verb)
1. The study of the relationship among politics and geography, demography, and economics, especially with respect to the foreign policy of a nation.

2.
a.
 considerations. Currently, continuing operations continuing operations

Parts of a business that are expected to be maintained as an ongoing segment of an overall business operation. Income and losses from continuing operations are reported separately if any segments have been discontinued during the
 appears to be warranted because of lower payroll costs, the specialized spe·cial·ize  
v. spe·cial·ized, spe·cial·iz·ing, spe·cial·iz·es

v.intr.
1. To pursue a special activity, occupation, or field of study.

2.
 workload, and other factors. However, as the population of Filipino WWII veterans and dependents declines, so should the need for specialized staff and extensive fraud investigation activities. Over the past two decades, Congress has reauthorized a series of short-term extensions (averaging 3 years in length) to allow VA to operate this office. A 3-year extension beyond the December 31, 2011, deadline would allow VA to conduct a thorough analysis of future feasibility. Congress should consider extending authority for the Philippines office, but require VA to assess and report to Congress on the feasibility of maintaining a future presence in the Philippines.

Recommendations

Our recommendations from this work are listed below with a Contact for more information. Status will change from "In process" to "Open," "Closed - implemented," or "Closed - not implemented" based on our follow up work.

Director: Lisa R. Shames

Team: Government Accountability Office The Government Accountability Office (GAO) is the audit, evaluation, and investigative arm of the United States Congress, and thus an agency in the Legislative Branch of the United States Government. : Natural Resources and Environment

Phone: (202) 512-2649

Director: Alicia P. Cackley

Team: Government Accountability Office: Financial Markets and Community Investment

Phone: (202) 512-7022

Director: David J. Wise

Team: Government Accountability Office: Physical Infrastructure

Phone: (202) 512-5731

Director: Orice Williams Brown

Team: Government Accountability Office: Financial Markets and Community Investment

Phone: (202) 512-5837

Director: Steven J. Sebastian

Team: Government Accountability Office: Financial Management and Assurance

Phone: (202) 512-9521

Director: Susan Ragland

Team: Government Accountability Office: Financial Management and Assurance

Phone: (202) 512-8486

Director: Jeanette M. Franzel

Team: Government Accountability Office: Financial Management and Assurance

Phone: (202) 512-9471

Director: Valerie C. Melvin

Team: Government Accountability Office: Information Technology

Phone: (202) 512-6304

Director: William T. Woods

Team: Government Accountability Office: Acquisition and Sourcing Management

Phone: (202) 512-8214

Director: Debra A. Draper drap·er  
n. Chiefly British
A dealer in cloth or clothing and dry goods.



[Middle English, weaver or seller of cloth, from Old French drapier, from drap, cloth; see
 

Team: Government Accountability Office: Health Care

Phone: (202)512-3000

Director: Linda T. Kohn

Team: Government Accountability Office: Health Care

Phone: (202)512-3000

Director: Carolyn L. Yocom

Team: Government Accountability Office: Natural Resources and Environment

Phone: (202) 512-4931

Director: Linda T. Kohn

Team: Government Accountability Office: Health Care

Phone: (202)512-3000

Director: Gregory D. Kutz

Team: Government Accountability Office: Forensic Audits and Investigative Service

Phone: (202) 512-9505

Director: Marcia G. Crosse

Team: Government Accountability Office: Health Care

Phone: (202) 512-3407

Director: Randall B. Williamson

Team: Government Accountability Office: Health Care

Phone: (206) 287-4860

Director: Mark L. Goldstein

Team: Government Accountability Office: Physical Infrastructure

Phone: (202) 512-6670

Director: Stephen L. Caldwell

Team: Government Accountability Office: Homeland Security and Justice

Phone: (202) 512-9610

Director: David C. Maurer

Team: Government Accountability Office: Homeland Security and Justice

Phone: (202) 512-9627

Director: Kay E. Brown

Team: Government Accountability Office: Education, Workforce, and Income Security

Phone: (202) 512-3674

Director: David A. Powner

Team: Government Accountability Office: Information Technology

Phone: (202) 512-9286

Director: Gregory C. Wilshusen

Team: Government Accountability Office: Information Technology

Phone: (202) 512-6244

Director: Charles M. Johnson Jr

Team: Government Accountability Office: International Affairs Noun 1. international affairs - affairs between nations; "you can't really keep up with world affairs by watching television"
world affairs

affairs - transactions of professional or public interest; "news of current affairs"; "great affairs of state"
 and Trade

Phone: (202) 512-7331

Director: Loren Yager

Team: Government Accountability Office: International Affairs and Trade

Phone: (202) 512-4347

Director: Thomas Melito

Team: Government Accountability Office: International Affairs and Trade

Phone: (202) 512-9601

Director: Cristina T. Chaplain CHAPLAIN. A clergyman appointed to say prayers and perform divine service. Each house of congress usually appoints it own chaplain.  

Team: Government Accountability Office: Acquisition and Sourcing Management

Phone: (202) 512-4859

Director: Sharon L. Pickup

Team: Government Accountability Office: Defense Capabilities and Management

Phone: (202) 512-9619

Director: Brian J. Lepore

Team: Government Accountability Office: Defense Capabilities and Management

Phone: (202) 512-4523

Director: Brenda S. Farrell

Team: Government Accountability Office: Defense Capabilities and Management

Phone: (202) 512-3604

Director: William M. Solis

Team: Government Accountability Office: Defense Capabilities and Management

Phone: (202) 512-8365

Director: David A. Powner

Team: Government Accountability Office: Information Technology

Phone: (202) 512-9286

Director: Kay E. Brown

Team: Government Accountability Office: Education, Workforce, and Income Security

Phone: (202) 512-3674

Director: David A. Powner

Team: Government Accountability Office: Information Technology

Phone: (202) 512-9286

Director: James R. White

Team: Government Accountability Office: Strategic Issues

Phone: (202) 512-5594

Director: Michael Brostek

Team: Government Accountability Office: Strategic Issues

Phone: (202) 512-9039

Director: Michael Brostek

Team: Government Accountability Office: Strategic Issues

Phone: (202) 512-9039

Director: Gerald L. Dillingham

Team: Government Accountability Office: Physical Infrastructure

Phone: (202) 512-4803

Director: Susan A. Fleming

Team: Government Accountability Office: Physical Infrastructure

Phone: (202) 512-4431

Director: Daniel Bertoni Ricardo Daniel Bertoni (born March 14, 1955 in Bahia Blanca) is a former Argentine footballer that played in a Right Winger role.

He played for the Argentina national football team in both the 1978 and the 1982 FIFA World Cups.
 

Team: Government Accountability Office: Education, Workforce, and Income Security

Phone: (202) 512-5988

Matters for Congressional Consideration

----------

Recommendation: Congress may wish to consider extending authority for the Philippines office, but require VA to assess and report to Congress on the feasibility of maintaining a future presence in the Philippines. In conducting this analysis, VA should be required to consult with SSA and State to develop and use information on the potential future workload of the office based on the projected number of Filipino WWII veterans, U.S. veterans, and dependents in the Philippines; the costs and benefits of alternative ways to provide services to veterans in the Philippines, such as delivering medical services through the Foreign Medical Program and providing some services from the United States while maintaining fraud investigation staff in the Philippines; and the foreign policy implications of maintaining or closing the VA office in the Philippines.

Status: In process

Comments: When we determine what steps the Congress has taken, we will provide updated information.

Categories: Veterans Affairs, Cost analysis, Dependents, Disability benefits, Foreign governments, Fraud, Health care services, Philippines, Veterans, Veterans benefits, Veterans disability compensation, Veterans pensions
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Publication:General Accounting Office Reports & Testimony
Geographic Code:9PHIL
Date:Nov 1, 2011
Words:1602
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