House to punish VA by cutting bonuses

The House will pass legislation as early as today that would chop bonuses for government workers at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) by at least 14 percent.

Members will call up H.R. 1405, which includes several different provisions dealing with veterans benefits, but also includes the cut in bonuses or salary awards. The VA currently pays out about $400 million in bonuses to its workers each year, but the bill could cap total annual bonus payments at $345 million through fiscal 2018.

A report on the bill from the House Veterans' Affairs Committee noted the growing frustration in Congress with the VA, in particular the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA), under which the backlog of veterans' disability claims has grown.

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"[C]oncerns have been raised regarding VA's provision of merit-based bonuses to managers and supervisors who have led troubled offices, including Veterans Health Administration medical centers with demonstrated incidences of gross negligence in care, and VBA positions where a growing inventory of claims and poor workload management practices abound," that report said.

It added that the VA's own inspector general has found that bonuses are being given to "employees with less than satisfactory performance and retention incentives being awarded to employees who had stated their intention to retire in the very near future."

The bill, from Rep. Dina Titus (D-Nev.), includes language from several other legislative proposals. It would require the VA to include an appeals form whenever it mails out a notice denying a veteran a specific benefit.

It also gives reservists honorary "veteran" status if they serve for more than 20 years, allows veterans to access information about pending benefits claims, and allows the VA to appoint a fiduciary for veterans who are mentally incompetent to manage their finances.

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