Thousands of VA-purchased smartphones lay unused | Radio WGN 720

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The US Department of Veterans Affairs wasted nearly $2 million when most smartphones purchased during the pandemic for homeless veterans sat unused, according to an inspector general’s report.

The report, released Wednesday, found that the Veterans Health Administration spent nearly $7 million buying 10,000 phones with unlimited prepaid calling plans, but 85% of the phones gathered dust. As a result, it lost 1wdf $0.8 million in wasted data plan costs. The inspector general also found that $571,000 was wasted on data plans due to poor oversight of his purchase of nearly 81,000 iPads.

The smartphones and iPads were purchased as part of efforts to increase homeless veterans’ access to telehealth, a program that has seen video visits rise from around 2,500 in February 2020 to 38,000 in September 2020 Veterans were registered with a Department of Housing and Urban Planning. Development VA Supportive Housing Program.

The inspector general concluded that Veterans Health Administration officials, who were part of the Connected Care program, had made a good faith effort to help veterans obtain smartphones. But they found there was a “lack of information for officials to determine the amount needed for the targeted veteran population.”

The Inspector General recommended improvements in the storage of smartphones and tablets.

He called on the VA to “establish a realistic target for storage days as well as a process for closely monitoring storage days for each data plan provider and taking corrective action when the target is not met.” hit”. He also called for a cost-benefit analysis, in coordination with contractors, to create a process that only starts data plan charges after the device is issued to a veteran.

In the case of iPads, Connected Care officials bought 80,930 of them with prepaid data plans for about $63 million. But those iPads sat in storage for an average of 17 days, the inspector general found, which ended up costing the VA more than $571,000 in wasted data plans.

“Managers could reduce unnecessary data plan costs by setting a realistic goal for storage days, closely monitoring storage days for devices with each type of data plan, and then taking corrective action if necessary. “, says the report.

The VA did not immediately respond to a request for comment. But in the report, the VA’s undersecretary of health agreed with the recommendations.

The agency said it plans to work with its Denver logistics center to analyze inventory, tablet usage and shipments over the past year. It will then offer guidelines on how long a device should be stored, a system to monitor this, and corrective actions when storage goals are not met. It also plans to consider a new process that will launch data plans when devices are issued or consider other ways to reduce data plan costs.

The VA said the Connected Care program also transfers excess loan iPhones to the Veterans Health Administration’s homeless program office, so coordinators can provide an iPhone to any veteran without stable housing and in need of one. device.

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