CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) -Their job is to take care of our nation’s veterans and we’re checking to make sure Veterans Affairs is also taking care of your tax dollars. A Live 5 Investigation shows more than 100 pieces of equipment are considered lost or missing from the Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center (VAMC) in Charleston for the 2018 fiscal year.
Based on the Charleston VA's most recent list there were 106 items marked as lost.
“Anytime there is waste – it’s frustrating,” veteran Daniel Gaita said.
Gaita is also the Director of Operation Vet Fit – an organization that works to help veterans, active military members and affected family members through advocacy, research information, fitness, and group based motivational activities and events.
“We need to hold them accountable – but we also need to give them credit where it’s due,” Gaita said.
Gaita added he’s had great experiences in dealing with Charleston’s VA, but there is always room for improvement.
“It’s not about funding, to me, it’s about efficiency,” Gaita said. “If things are missing then there is a lack of efficiency, a lack of oversight, and there needs to be accountability.”
According to officials -- Charleston's VA has about 11,000 assets. The number of missing items represents less than one percent of their entire inventory.
The missing items include iPads, TV’s, monitors, computers, cameras and more.
A spokesperson with the Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center, Tonya Lobbestael, provided a statement saying, “The reality of running a 24/7 hospital with 1.26 million outpatient encounters a year is that some equipment loss or misplacement is inevitable.”
Lobbestael went on to say,
“For example, if a patient needs to be transferred to another hospital, he or she will often take his or her infusion pump, which provides medication through an IV, with him or her. This is necessary so the patient can continue to receive medication while traveling to another hospital. We try to retrieve our infusion pumps from other hospitals, but sometimes they get mixed in with another hospital’s equipment.”
In May, Michal Higdon found out there were more than 400 items marked as missing for 2017 between the VA hospital in downtown Charleston and the Office of Information Technology – adding up to nearly half a million dollars when looking at the original purchase price of each item.
For 2018, the 183 items, from the same two locations, added up to $103,066. That amount, however, is the depreciated value of the items, not what the hospital paid for them using taxpayer dollars. We have requested that information and are still waiting to hear back.