Politics

Tammy Duckworth Failed to Comply with State Laws as Veterans Affairs Director

State veteran affairs department mismanaged by Duckworth, state audit shows

Tammy Duckworth
Tammy Duckworth / AP

Senate hopeful Tammy Duckworth is touting her record on veterans issues, but an audit of her time at the helm of the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs (IDVA) shows veterans were underserved due to widespread mismanagement.

Duckworth, herself a U.S. Army veteran, announced her Senate run last week and stated in a press conference that she will "stand proudly" on her record as director of IDVA.

Under Duckworth, who was director of the agency from late 2006 to early 2009, the IDVA failed to manage affairs, leading to wasteful spending and a decrease in aid to veterans, according to a compliance examination carried out by William Holland, Illinois' auditor general.

The report, which examined a two-year span from June 2006 to June 2008, found that employees took advantage of travel expenses, lost equipment, and failed to comply with basic duties designed to protect veterans.

Furthermore, the report found that the department became less efficient under Duckworth. The number of claims processed for veterans by the IDVA decreased in each year she was director, with 2,305 fewer claims processed in 2006 than in 2008.

The audit listed 16 findings during the two-year period, double the number of findings in the audit of the two years preceding Duckworth. Only three of the findings found in the previous audit were corrected under Duckworth.

One major finding by Holland was that employees were abusing their travel privileges by staying at hotels with rates that far exceeded lodging allowances. Instances were also found in which employees were reimbursed for mileage in excess of normal routes.

The auditors also found multiple instances in which they "could not determine if travel was required" due to poor documentation.

Travel expenditures increased by nearly 50 percent under Duckworth.

A majority of employees also failed to correctly fill out time sheets and regularly submitted requests for leave after the time off actually occurred.

The audit also found that Duckworth’s department had "inadequate controls over equipment" and was unable to locate more than $6,000 worth of it. It also failed to inventory $3,281 worth of new office equipment.

Duckworth’s IDVA failed to complete duties that are required by law, such as an annual review of whether the benefits received by Illinois veterans were in line with benefits received in other states. The IDVA "was unable to provide documentation" that it conducted this review.

The IDVA also failed to comply with Illinois’ National Guard Veterans Exposure to Hazardous Materials Act, which requires that a task force be set up to study the health effects caused to veterans by exposure to hazardous materials and that a report be submitted to the state legislature.

Duckworth’s IDVA did not set up a task force, according to the audit. It also did not "assist eligible members or veterans in obtaining information on available federal treatment services for exposure to depleted uranium," which is also required by the act.

The IDVA additionally failed to create a legally mandated list of honorably discharged veterans in the state who wanted to participate in volunteer programs designed to assist with post-traumatic stress disorder. It received $50,000 to create a Veterans’ Conservation Corps, but failed to establish it.

Duckworth also neglected the state’s veterans’ memorials during her years at IDVA. The IDVA’s Veterans’ Memorial Commission failed to conduct mandated studies to determine what is needed to ensure memorial preservation.

One reason for this failure could be that Duckworth failed to appoint three of the 12 members of the commission, leaving a quarter of the commission’s seats vacant during the entirety of the audited period.

The Duckworth campaign did not respond to a request for comment on the audit.