Thompson Urges VA to Halt Improper Payments to Prisoners

WASHINGTON, DC — Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Fred Thompson (R-TN) today wrote Veterans Administration Secretary Togo West urging him to act quickly to stop the improper payment of benefits to convicts serving prison sentences. Text of Senator Thompson’s letter follows:

March 15, 1999

The Honorable Togo D. West, Jr.
Department of Veterans Affairs
810 Vermont Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C. 20420

Dear Secretary West:

I am writing to express my serious concerns about the findings in a recent Veterans Affairs Inspector General (IG) report sent to my Committee regarding benefits improperly paid to convicts serving prison sentences. On October 7, 1980, Congress passed P.L. 96-385 that denies certain compensation and pension benefits to veterans incarcerated in a Federal, State, or local penal institution. Now in 1999, the IG finds that your Department has still not taken the necessary steps to enforce this nearly 20-year-old law.

I find this to be very disappointing and urge you to act quickly to correct this situation. The audit’s key findings were:

approximately 13,700 incarcerated veterans have been, or will be, overpaid about $100 million due to VA management’s inaction;

an additional $70 million in overpayments will occur over the next four years unless VA acts soon to stop this squandering of taxpayer money; and,

nearly 13 years ago, in July 1986, the IG recommended that VA implement a systematic approach to identify incarcerated veterans and VA management agreed, but the 1999 IG report found that “no such (management) actions were taken.”

The February 1999 IG report (No. 9R3-B01-031) says that your Department has agreed to implement the IG’s recommendations. While I am encouraged by this willingness to implement the IG’s recommendations, I ask that you do so quickly so these improper payments can finally stop.

I look forward to hearing from you after having taken concrete actions to implement the IG’s recommendations.

Fred Thompson

A copy of the IG’s report is available at