GOP lawmaker questions spending at VA conferences

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Associated Press

Posted on August 13, 2012 at 7:34 PM

Updated Monday, Aug 13 at 9:03 PM

WASHINGTON (AP) — A Republican lawmaker is raising questions about spending at training conferences held in Florida last year by the Veterans Affairs Department that have prompted an internal investigation at the agency.

Rep. Jeff Miller, chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, said the VA authorized $9 million for a series of conferences and said a preliminary investigation has found that planning trips for the conferences cost taxpayers thousands of dollars. He says VA employees reportedly received gifts including alcohol, concert tickets and spa treatments. Miller, who is from Florida, says VA officials had assured his committee earlier that oversight of spending was adequate.

The VA said in a statement that the conferences were for legitimate training purposes, but the VA's inspector general is looking into allegations of misconduct. VA spokesman Joshua Taylor said Monday the two conferences in question cost about $5 million.

While the IG investigates, the VA said it has taken action to remove purchasing authority of any employees in the work unit under investigation. VA Secretary Eric Shinseki also has directed an outside independent review of all training policies and procedures. The department also has directed ethics training for all VA personnel involved with the planning and execution of training conferences and recertification of contract specialists.

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