VA paid $142M in bonuses during the year of scandal

The embattled Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) paid out $142 million in executive and employee bonuses in 2014, the same year a major, ongoing scandal involving care delays first broke, according to USA Today.

The agency paid as much as $900 each to claims processors at a Philadelphia benefits office named the nation's worst by investigators, according to the article, as well as bonuses of between $1,000 and $4,000 to managers at a Tomah, Wisconsin, facility that was probed for overprescription of opioids. Executives responsible for construction of a long-delayed Denver VA facility construction project with cost overruns of more than $1 billion, meanwhile, received between $4,000 and $8,000 each.  

When then-VA Secretary Eric Shinseki resigned last May in the wake of the scandal, he announced bonuses would be suspended while the problems within the department were resolved, but the freeze only applied to senior executives within the Veterans Health Administration (VHA). Meanwhile, nearly half of VA employees, including many in the VHA, continued to receive payouts--about 156,000 based on 2014 performance, according to data obtained by USA Today.

Rep. Jeff Miller (R-Fla), chairman of the House VA Committee, noted that substantial bonus payouts amid troubles within the department are a long-lasting problem, such as the more than $380,000 paid to top executives based on their 2013 performance even amid long care delays, with many of the bonus recipients those currently being investigated for manipulating wait times.

"Rewarding failure only breeds more failure," Miller said. "Until VA leaders learn this important lesson and make a commitment to supporting real accountability at the department, efforts to reform VA are doomed to fail."

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