The US Department of Veterans Affairs wasted more than $2.3 million on unlimited data plans for phones and tablets that sat unused in storage, according to an audit by the VA Office of Inspector General.

The 10,000 iPhones and 80,930 iPads, which together cost $71.1 million, were intended to be sent to veterans to facilitate virtual health care visits to VA hospitals during the Covid-19 pandemic. These devices had unlimited prepaid data plans that were activated immediately.

But the survey found that 8,544, or about 85%, of iPhones were still in storage more than a year after purchase, along with many iPads. Each of those unused devices had activated prepaid data plans, costing taxpayers $2.3 million.

The VA’s acquisition program has been flagged by the Government Accountability Office as high-risk since 2019, Citizens Against Government Waste reported, due to outdated acquisition policies, a lack of strategy, training, and reliable data systems, limited monitoring and management instability.

The VA’s continued failure to reform its procurement practices is a disappointment to American taxpayers and veterans. The millions that are wasted each year could help care for veterans, but are instead wasted through mismanagement and outdated practices.

The VA had a budget of $268.5 billion in 2022 and is asking for $301.4 billion for 2023, according to Citizens Against Government Waste. Unfortunately, until the agency does the hard work of reforming its processes and policies, more money will likely lead to more waste.

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