VA Halts Bonuses

By Debbie Gregory.

The Department of Veteran’s Affairs has opted to temporarily suspend the issuing of bonuses to high-level administrators who supervise disability claims. The withheld “gift for performance” creates an incentive for top executives to expedite the significant backlog of unprocessed claims.

During 2011, pending disability claims in wait-mode escalated from 200,000 to almost 500,000. The VA claims department is critiqued as inefficient by Veterans’ organizations, Congress, and the public. As the scrutinized, massive delays increased during the past three years, Congress appealed to President Obama to intercede.

Representative Jeff Miller, the Republican Chairman of the House Committee on Veteran’s Affairs, stated, “How does the [Veteran Affairs] department expect to turn things around when it is rewarding employees and managers for falling behind?”

Josh Taylor, a spokesperson for the V.A., said, “We remain confident that VBA senior executives are dedicated to our nation’s Veterans, and they will continue to lead our drive toward the VA goal of eliminating the claims backlog in 2015.” Taylor further explained that by not issuing bonuses, the money saved would be capital applied to the effort of decreasing the backlog.

The amount of the bonuses to the Veteran’s Benefits Administration officials was reported by the Center for Investigative Reporting. Their findings showed that senior administrators were collectively paid $2.8 million in bonus funds for the fiscal year 2011. The highest payments, $23,091, were received by three staff employees.

The policy of the Veterans Administration is to pay bonuses to Senior Executive Service employees, including non-political workers. In June 2011, the Office of Personnel Management placed new limits on the performance gifts. The Department of Veteran Affairs restrictions were reflected in the 25 percent decrease in total executive expenditures that year.

Rep. Miller expressed pleasure that the bonuses have been suspended, saying, “One can only wonder what effect this sort of policy may have had if the VA had instituted this years ago.”