SACRAMENTO – On Thursday, Assemblymember Mariko Yamada (D-Davis) introduced AB 1580, legislation to establish new oversight processes for the appropriation of funds in the State’s Veterans Homes.
Specifically, this bill addresses issues identified in an October 2013 California State Auditor’s report regarding the mismanagement of the Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) fund which helps support programs and activities for Veterans Home residents.
“The State Auditor’s report highlighted the absence of oversight leading to wasteful spending of funds meant to support the well-being of Veterans Home residents,” Yamada said. “Over half a million dollars were spent on projects that had virtually no tangible benefit to residents and which violated the state’s contracting practices. This legislation will create appropriate oversight processes and ensure the integrity of MWR funds.”
AB 1580 would require the Secretary of the California Department of Veterans Affairs (CalVet) to approve all proposed MWR fund expenditures that reach a specified monetary threshold.
This legislation would ensure all proposed expenses exceeding the established limit are reviewed by qualified legal counsel and Veterans Home residents before approval.
The audit report found that an administrator of the Yountville Veterans Home entered into contracts using MWR funds without consultation with CalVet, legal counsel or residents of the Veterans Home.
These agreements authorized operating a tavern on-site and building a zip line adventure park for use by the public and residents of the home.
Vaguely defined mechanisms governing how monies within the MWR fund are spent ultimately allowed the home administrator to execute the contracts without oversight from CalVet.
CalVet operates eight veterans homes in California which provide veterans with rehabilitative, residential, and medical care in a home-like environment.
The MWR Fund is sustained by proceeds of the Veterans’ Home Exchange, revenue from prisoner-of-war special license plates, funds from golf course green fees and range ball fees, interest earned on invested funds, recovered cost of care, moneys and properties received by the home from residents’ estate assets and any donations from the public.
AB 1580 is expected to be heard in a policy committee in February. Yamada represents the Fourth Assembly District which includes the Veterans Home of Yountville in Napa County.