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Eager to reduce spending, the Bush administration falsely claimed savings of more than $1.3 billion in the Department of Veterans Affairs to justify cuts to health care services, congressional investigators say.
The report by the Government Accountability Office is the latest to document funding woes at the VA, which currently offers health care to 7 million out of 24 million eligible veterans. It found that the agency used misleading accounting methods and lacked documentation to prove its claimed savings.
The audit, released Thursday, comes amid growing political debate about streamlining veterans health care. In the last fiscal year, more than 260,000 veterans considered to have higher incomes could not sign up for services because of cost-cutting, a move decried by Democrats.
"It's unconscionable," said Rep. Lane Evans, D-Ill., the ranking Democrat on the House Veterans' Affairs Committee, who requested the audit. "Veterans needing health care are being penalized because of an accounting deception promulgated by this administration."
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