Consider legislation to establish increased statutory controls over the management of the recreation fund maintained by each of the veterans homes to require that the funds be managed by the secretary of Veterans Affairs, in consultation with the administrator of each home, and be managed in a manner that is transparent to the public, takes into account the feelings of veterans, is consistent with the mission of the veterans homes, and is fiscally prudent.
Veterans Affairs reported that in 2016 the Legislature passed and the Governor signed Senate Bill 543. The bill directs Veterans Affairs to merge all Morale, Welfare, and Recreation Fund monies into a single State Treasury account, then distribute it each year to the veterans' homes according to an allocation formula and with enhanced structure and oversight. In accordance with the specifics of the bill, any veterans homes that do not have Morale, Welfare, and Recreation committees will form them beginning in January 2017. Additionally, Veterans Affairs will promulgate regulations further clarifying the role of these committees, defining the allocation formula, and specifying other details in accordance with the requirements of the new law. The rulemaking process for these regulations will include input from residents and other stakeholders, and the collection of public comments.
Veterans Affairs reported that a state senator developed legislation that proposes a new location of the recreation funds, a new distribution process, additional coordination between Veterans Affairs and the residents of its veterans homes, and additional management and oversight practices. Veterans Affairs stated that it will continue working with the state senator as the legislation progresses.
Veterans Affairs reported that during the current legislative session, it has begun working with a state senator regarding legislation to improve oversight of all veterans homes' recreation funds.
Veterans Affairs reported in July 2014 that it had worked with an assembly member to propose legislation that would address this recommendation. However, in September 2014 Veterans Affairs reported that the proposed legislation had failed. Despite this failure, Veterans Affairs stated that it intends to pursue legislative proposals in the next legislative session.
Veterans Affairs reported in April 2014 that discussions have continued with various legislators. It stated that although a current proposal does not adequately address many of the concerns raised in our investigation, Veterans Affairs would continue to work with the Legislature to improve recreation fund oversight.
Veterans Affairs provided no new information for May 2014 as it was undergoing a major reorganization of responsibilities.
Veterans Affairs told us that it discussed statutory changes to the Military and Veterans Code with the Governor's Office, the Department of Finance, the Department of General Services, and members of the Legislature. It also stated that its proposed statutory changes would clarify many ambiguities in state law, such as the manner in which recreation fund money may be used and administered. Veterans Affairs noted that it even discussed with one member of the Legislature the possibility of authoring relevant legislation.
To properly evaluate whether to propose legislation to increase statutory controls over the management of the recreation funds, legislative staff have contacted the State Auditor's Office to gain a better understanding of the basis for this recommendation.
Veterans Affairs plans to propose to the legislature amendments to the Military and Veterans Code provisions relating to recreation funds.