Veterans Paralympics Program:

Improved Reporting Needed to Ensure Grant Accountability

GAO-12-703: Published: Jul 26, 2012. Publicly Released: Jul 26, 2012.

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Daniel Bertoni
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What GAO Found

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and the U.S. Olympic Committee (USOC) primarily awarded program funds through subgrants to 65 national and community organizations that support adaptive sports opportunities. However, their respective program expenditure reporting was not consistent with federal internal control standards, making it difficult to know fully how program funds were spent. VA’s reporting of first-year program funding was problematic because it did not closely track costs until midway through the fiscal year. During the second fiscal year—2011—VA granted $7.5 million to USOC, which, in turn, awarded $4.4 million to subgrantees and spent the remainder primarily on operations and personnel. Subgrantees reported using funds for activities such as training and camps. GAO found, however, that USOC did not have sufficient reporting requirements in place for subgrantees to provide information on how VA funds were used separate from other sources of funding.

VA relied upon self-reported, unverified information to oversee the grant program but is planning to make improvements. In fiscal year 2011, VA did not conduct any on-site or remote monitoring to verify how funds were used. Thus, VA lacked information on how well USOC and subgrantees managed grant funds, potentially exposing itself to paying for services not delivered. In 12 of 21 subgrant files selected, USOC was not holding subgrantees accountable for meeting the terms of their agreements. For example, one subgrantee agreed to conduct 10 activities, but the file indicated only 4 were conducted. VA reported that it has plans to improve to oversight, including conducting on-site monitoring of grantees’ and subgrantees’ use of funds and having USOC verify financial reports for at-risk subgrantees, such as those with large subgrants.

While program benefits were reported by subgrantees and participants, up until this point VA has not systematically measured how adaptive sports activities benefit the health and well-being of veterans and service members. Subgrantees primarily report anecdotal information on program benefits, such as individual success stories. VA collects information on the number of activities and participants from USOC. In 2011, over 10,000 participants were served through nearly 2,000 activities. However, these metrics are flawed due to double counting and other measurement issues. VA officials also recognize that the metrics do not comprehensively measure program benefits. Thus, VA and USOC have hired a contractor to conduct a study on the effects of adaptive sports on rehabilitation and reintegration of veterans and service members into the community.

Why GAO Did This Study

The Veterans Benefits Improvement Act of 2008 established VA’s Paralympics Program to promote the lifelong health of disabled veterans and members of the Armed Forces through physical activity and sports. Additionally, the act authorized VA to provide a grant to USOC’s Paralympics Division, and allowed USOC to enter into subgrant agreements to provide adaptive sports activities to veterans and service members. The act also mandated GAO to report on the VA Paralympics program.

GAO is required to (1) review how VA and its grantee and subgrantees used program funds to provide adaptive sports opportunities to veterans and service members; (2) assess how VA is overseeing its grantee’s and subgrantees’ use of funds; and (3) describe how veterans and service members have benefited from VA Paralympics activities. To do this, GAO reviewed relevant federal laws, regulations, guidance, agency reports, and a non-probability sample of 21 of 76 subgrant files, consisting of data on about 56 percent of funds subgranted. GAO also conducted site visits to two states and interviewed veterans as well as agency and grantee officials.

What GAO Recommends

GAO recommends that VA take additional actions to improve grantee and subgrantee reporting of expenditures, activities, and participants, as well as USOC’s monitoring of subgrantees. In commenting upon a draft of this report, VA agreed with these recommendations and reported that it was taking steps to implement them.

For more information, contact Daniel Bertoni at (202) 512-7215 or

Status Legend:

More Info
  • Review Pending-GAO has not yet assessed implementation status.
  • Open-Actions to satisfy the intent of the recommendation have not been taken or are being planned, or actions that partially satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-implemented-Actions that satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-not implemented-While the intent of the recommendation has not been satisfied, time or circumstances have rendered the recommendation invalid.
    • Review Pending
    • Open
    • Closed - implemented
    • Closed - not implemented

    Recommendations for Executive Action

    Recommendation: To improve oversight within the VA Paralympics grant program, the Secretary of VA should direct the National Director of the Office of National Veterans Sports Programs and Special Events to review the implementation of USOC's monitoring plan after a reasonable period to ensure planned efforts were conducted.

    Agency Affected: Department of Veterans Affairs

    Status: Open

    Comments: VA began implementation of new monitoring procedures in FY 2012, and is working with USOC on initiatives for effective implementation of USOC's monitoring plan, such as cooperative on-site and remote monitoring of subgrantees, comprehensive consideration of risk factors, portability of lessons learned and benefits to other programs, and more effective integration of subgrantee programs with VA rehabilitative programs.

    Recommendation: To improve oversight within the VA Paralympics grant program, the Secretary of VA should direct the National Director of the Office of National Veterans Sports Programs and Special Events to ensure USOC adds controls to its electronic reporting system that will require subgrantees to identify how VA grant funds were used separate from other funding sources subgrantees use to support adaptive sports activities.

    Agency Affected: Department of Veterans Affairs

    Status: Open

    Comments: According to VA, USOC implemented a new on-line data reporting system for subgrantee monitoring in January 2012. USOC also started including financial inputs in the FY 2012 Paralympic Grant Application, such as the overhaul of equipment and supplies accounting. VA and USOC are currently developing the procedures to implement new financial processes, with particular emphasis on documentation and funds transfer. USOC also began formal grant management training for its grant personnel in July 2012, and made formal grant management training a component of its FY 2012 Paralympic Grant Application.

    Recommendation: To improve oversight within the VA Paralympics grant program, the Secretary of VA should direct the National Director of the Office of National Veterans Sports Programs and Special Events to require USOC to modify reporting requirements that will: 1. Direct subgrantees to only include VA Paralympics program funds in expenditure reports; and 2. Provide a consistent methodology for how subgrantees should count their program activities and participants, including explicit instruction on what should and should not be counted as an activity or participant.

    Agency Affected: Department of Veterans Affairs

    Status: Open

    Comments: VA reported that they and USOC have begun including only VA Paralympics program funds in expenditure reports. VA and USOC are also refining details in both organizations' monitoring plans on how subgrantees count their program activities and participants. VA and USOC established a method to track unique Veterans to better identify the level and breadth of individual Veteran involvement in Paralympics plans. Also, USOC and the University of Pittsburgh's Human Engineering Research Laboratory finalized their agreement on a project that will provide analysis that will directly support better understanding of Paralympic program participation and activities. In addition, USOC grant managers and regional coordinators began formal grant management training for more effective grant management and on-site evaluations. According to VA, the additional training and analysis of cost factors have resulted in improved expense accounting and processes in areas such as supplies and equipment items. As part of this effort, USOC resubmitted all components of their FY 2012 grant application to VA, and rewrote all USOC subgrantee agreements to capture and maintain these improvements. VA and USOC have also implemented additional processes to enhance more effective tracking of Paralympic fund expenditures, activities, and participation, and these processes will be refined further to more effectively identify and analyze the various components of the U.S. Paralympics Integrative Adaptive Sports Program.

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