House votes to cut salaries, deny bonuses to Veterans Affairs officials

The 2014 spending bill for the VA already includes new funding to help the department handle this backlog. But members also voted in favor of a few amendments to penalize the senior officials responsible.

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By unanimous consent, members approved language from Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.), which would cut the salaries of senior VA officials by 25 percent unless the VA reduces the number of older disability claims. The language says claims more than 125 days old would have to drop to 40 percent of all claims to avoid this salary cut.

Rep. Sanford Bishop Jr. (D-Ga.) argued that the House should wait to see if the VA can improve the situation before cutting salaries. But Kingston said Congress has increased funding before for the VA with little effect.

"What we're doing with this amendment is what the private sector does every single day — it bases compensation on performance," he said. "And we're saying, if you don't perform to your own guidelines, there will be a compensation penalty for it."

In another unanimous consent vote, the House approved language from Rep. Keith Rothfus (R-Pa.) that would deny the awarding of any bonuses to senior VA officials.

"Paying bonuses to executives of an organization with this kind of abysmal performance record is ridiculous," Rothfus said. "In the private sector, this level of performance achievement is rewarded with a pink slip, not a bonus check."

The House also approved a proposal from Rep. Ann McLane Kuster (D-N.H.), which would prohibit the agency from holding any conferences that cost more than $500,000.

Members have complained about the VA's spending on expensive conferences at a time when hundreds of thousands of veterans are awaiting decisions on their disability.

On this same issue, the House approved language from Rep. Scott Tipton (R-Colo.) that would strip $10 million from the VA's conference budget and use it to help process disability claims. Members approved this language by unanimous consent.